Sheffield Steelers’ two wins over Nottingham Panthers will mean nothing tonight.
The earlier victories came in the Challenge Cup - but their meeting Sheffield Arena tonight is the first in the more significant Elite League competition.
Winger Levi Nelson explained: “Beating Panthers in Cup games has been important, but beating them in the League is a little more so. The eight game series against Panthers, and I guess Cardiff Devils as well, will go a long way in deciding who lifts the League trophy at the end of March.
“We had the better of Nottingham last year but they are a different beast this season.”
Nelson, whose goal on Nottingham’s ice delivered the Play Off championship last season, said: “They have improved as much if not more than any other club this summer. The results we have had against them though give us great confidence. We know if we play smart we will create enough chances to win the game.
“The first home game of the series is important, we must set a mark in the sand.”
Much depends on fitness. Last week, Mathieu Roy and Davey Phillips were absent and may not be back.
There have been other issues affecting Andreas Valdix, Scott Aarssen and Jonas Westerling, along with match-fitness challenges for Matt Marquardt and Andreas Jamtin.
Nottingham have qualified for the knock-out play-off stages of the Champions Hockey League as group champions.
They went down 5-2 at Turku of Finland on Tuesday and although they rested Mike Garnett and David Clarke there may be fatigue issues for the visitors.