By Kris Smith
Stars travel to Nottingham for the first time this season, as they take on the Panthers in a key match and look to take the next step in their play-off push.
The right results could see the Stars steal eighth place from Braehead, a win in Nottingham and defeat for Clan in Kirkcaldy will put Dundee into the final play-off spot.
The Nottinghamshire club sit in seventh place and are eight points ahead of Stars, but Panthers have a game in hand. Corey Neilson’s men fell 5-4 to Sheffield Steelers last night. Ollie Betteridge, Zack Phillips and Alex Mokshantsev were each on the scoresheet with Jeff Brown collecting a goal, two assists and the MVP of the night award.
Michael Garnett started between the pipes for Nottingham but was replaced at 34:58 after saving ten of fourteen shots. Patrick Galbraith finished the game saving all eleven shots he faced.
Panthers announced the signing of Finnish-born forward, Mike Vaskivuo from French team Brest. The 31-year-old has a wide range of experience in a number of leagues, including Liiga, ECHL and NLB, and won a CHL championship as a member of the Fort Wayne Komets in 2012. The Finn scored 10 goals plus 24 points in 18 playoff games for the Indiana side.
He will not feature in this evening’s game but Nottingham are hoping to have Vaskivuo in the line-up for Wednesday night’s trip to Belfast for the second leg of their Challenge Cup Semi-Final clash with the Giants.
Brett Perlini leads the Panthers in points, scoring 13 goals plus assisting on 19 in 36 games played. Yann Sauve is the highest scoring defenceman on the Nottingham side, he has netted 8 times and assisted 21 times, after featuring in 36 games for the English club. Mathieu Gagnon could give Stars plenty opportunities to punish Nottingham on the powerplay as the defenceman has racked up 94 penalty minutes in 34 games.
Evan Mosey and Jordan Kelsall will both miss out through injury and Dundee will be without Emerson Hrynyk, Riley Stadel and Johan Andersson as the trio are all recovering from injuries.
Stars blueliner, Joey De Concilys is familiar with Nottingham after playing against them last season and believes playing them is a “good challenge” for his side at this moment in time.
He said: “I don’t know too much about how Nottingham plays this year but last year they were tough to play.
“I know they’re going to be the same this year and a good challenge for us at this point in the year.
Reflecting on how the team has been playing in 2018, Joey added: “It’s always nice to be winning, anytime you can turn around a season that has been frustrating is ideal.
“It’s much easier going to the rink when the team is rolling but at this point we’re still battling for a playoff spot, so we can’t get complacent, we need to stick to the same work ethic and structure that’s made us successful in January.
“We are still not in the playoffs so until we find a way to clinch a spot, every game and every point is vital for allowing us a chance to play in the playoffs.
When asked what will be the key to winning points on the road in Nottingham, he responded: “The same things that have led to success recently – keeping up the hard work and trusting that everyone is playing within the system and trusting each other, with the way Fully (Fullerton) has been playing we can play with anyone.
“We’ve come a long way this year and every guy in the room is excited and wants the team to be as successful as possible, we believe that we are a playoff team.
Puck drops at 4pm at the NIC.