Into the Panthers’ lair: Sheffield Steelers are upbeat and ready to roll

A scene from a Nottingham Panthers v Sheffield game, last season
A scene from a Nottingham Panthers v Sheffield game, last season

Sheffield Steelers' 16 new players will be well-prepared for their baptism of fire at Nottingham Panthers on Saturday.

 Coach Paul Thompson believes the character and speed of the team will cope well with a big and aggressive opponent roster.

He expects Panthers would be full of belief and conviction after decent results in pre-season.

But Sheffield were more than happy to pit their own strengths against new coach Rich Chernomaz and his men.

"They are very big at the back end and up front too" acknowledged Thompson.

"Nottingham will have a decent team, they always do. 

"I expect them to be physical - that seems to be the noises coming from their coach.

"But we skate really well and will be a handful - they might be big but they have to catch us first!

"We also have big defenceman but they are all very comfortable with the puck, mobility is key back there and they have it.

"Offensively all of our lines have speed - we have really upgraded speed levels for last year.

"We are focusing on them over the next couple of days but we are a brand new team ourselves and we have to know what we ourselves are capable of more than anything."

Thompson said he was not overly surprised by Nottingham's pre-season results, all of which were positive and saw them winning a two-game tournament against champions Cardiff Devils. 

"They didn't play anybody of SHL quality like we did, but anyway it's the regular season titles we are after not pre-season ones" he said. 

"They got off to a good start though and will go into the game with a lot of confidence, but so will we.”

The coach said fitness levels “are where we'd wanted them to be, absolutely” and that he was hopeful that all of his injured troops would be available. Winger Brandon Whistle remains the biggest doubt.

“The guys had three days off last weekend and hit the ground running on Tuesday” added Thompson.

“As for combinations: we are getting there. 

“We've had pretty much full line ups out in practice, although there is still a doubt over Brandon, who has had some light skating.