If the Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers Boxing Day match was significant before - it’s suddenly got a whole lot more so.
Sheffield Steelers’ 5-1 defeat at Cardiff Devils puts the heat on coach Doug Christiansen and his staff more than at any other time of this bumpy season.
Fans have almost got used to their team’s inconsistency.
But to be losing to the third-from-bottom Welsh by such a scoreline indicates serious, underlying flaws.
Steelers have now lost their last three on the road, 5-1, 4-1 and 5-2.
They go behind in games too cheaply, lose discipline at the end, sometimes suffer scoring problems, sometimes looking weak defensively.
Christiansen challenges all issues affecting team performance and speaks of “re-shaping a club and a culture.”
So far, it’s not working. The inconsistency is patently clear for all to see: 13 wins and 12 losses.
And the style of performances are not everybody’s cup of tea either.
Christiansen, for instance, accepts Nottingham are “explosive” while his own team “grind out” their wins.
And he knows that more defeats going into the New Year could convert the rest of the league programme into dead-rubber games.
Speaking on video at thestar.co.uk he said: “For us to be back to where we want to be, to claw our way back into it, to have meaningful games down the stretch, we need to have success.
“Nottingham are extremely offensive,explosive, they are a team that can score a lot of goals. We are a team that grinds it out, with excellent team defence, guys who block shots, our character is really good. They are the leading Power Play in the League, we have the second best penalty kill in the League.”
Despite form problems, Christiansen is looking forward to the “derby” style confrontation with the noisy neighbours of Nottingham. “Obviously it’s a massive environment, it’s crucial for both teams. One of the reasons why I left Belfast was to be involved in this game.
“You watch from afar, you look at the coverage it gets, the momentum that it can build, it can really set up for an exceptional 2014. As a team, that is what we need.”