Solemn moments ahead for Sheffield Steelers' players

A true test of Sheffield Steelers players' power of concentration and composure awaits this coming weekend.
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The club has declared it will take part in Saturday's Challenge Cup match at Manchester Storm and Sunday's League hosting of Coventry Blaze.

They will be the first EIHL games since the awful tragedy that was Adam Johnson's fatal injury on October 28 in the Nottingham Panthers' match at the Arena.

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Coach Aaron Fox has already recognised that not every player will be "100% ready" by the time the puck drops in Altrincham.

Steelers at Manchester Storm.Steelers at Manchester Storm.
Steelers at Manchester Storm.

A match there is always a challenge, as Storm try to utilise the smaller dimensions of their pad to their advantage.

The game there needs rapid speed of thought - and an uncluttered mind.

That road trip will be followed by the first home game since Adam's passing.

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There won't be a dry eye in the house on Sunday, during and immediately after the pre-match tribute to the Panther along with the annual Remembrance Day ceremony.

Exactly how players will switch their mindset from solemnly observing those most intimate of moments to taking on Coventry is hard to guess.

It seems such a long time ago since Steelers beat Coventry won 3-2 at Sheffield Arena on the opening day of the season.

It was September, there were 6,882 fans in the seats and a highly competitive Blaze took the game into overtime.

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In the 63rd minute Patrick Watling ended the fixture with a goal teed up by Marco Vallerand and Niklas Nevalianen.

This weekend, Sheffield will have to dig even deeper if they are to come away with maximum points.

But first, they are going to have to clear their minds, which is easier said than done.

Sheffield have missed three games since the Adam Johnson tragedy, away at Fife Flyers, at home to Manchester and Cardiff Devils, away.

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In that intervening time, little has changed in the league table standings, with Sheffield and Nottingham both tied on 12 points from seven games at the top of the division.

Coventry are in the unfamiliar position of bottom of the league, with five points from a possible 14.

Only Glasgow Clan have conceded more than them, although they don't have much of a problem scoring at the other end.

That was instanced by their 5-2 win at Dundee Stars, last Sunday.

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Both weekend games represent a return to some much-needed normality.

Steelers fans will be needing that - but most of all they will be hoping all players involved in this dangerous sport will emerge safe and sound.

Meanwhile, Nottingham's planned games against Dundee Stars and Fife Flyers have been postponed.