(Picture: Dean Wooley)
By Kris Smith
This is the Stars second trip of the year to Yorkshire and as other teams catch up on their games in hand, Dundee need to take something off the Steelers to avoid sipping further behind.
The Tayside club are currently ranked ninth in the ten-team league and sit three points outside of the eight postseason places.
Dundee have lost in all three previous meetings with the Steelers this season but in their first encounter, they pushed the current League title front runners all the way to overtime.
Sheffield had led 2-1, 4-1 and 5-4 at the Dundee Ice Arena but the Stars battled back to tie the score at 5-5 and send the game into overtime before the visitors nicked the second point halfway through the extra period.
In their last meeting, Omar Pacha’s men visited the Fly DSA Arena and fell to a 4-2 defeat but again tested the resilience of the Sheffield defence as they came back from 3-0 down to make it a one-goal game.
Last season saw the Stars win their first ever game in Sheffield when they came away with a 6-3 result in January and it was also Pacha’s first win in Yorkshire as a coach.
The Scottish side come into the weekend off the back of a bounce-back victory over Guildford Flames, as they beat the Surrey side 4-3 on home ice last Sunday.
Matt Marquardt, Egils Kalns and Brett Stovin all found the net for the Stars but they will still be at least one player down this weekend as forward, Alex Schoenborn remains out through injury.
There is also still doubt around if defender, Kris Inglis will make a return to the line-up for Saturday and Pacha has confirmed that the decision will be made just before the game.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s game gets Aaron Fox’s Steelers back into domestic action after having a week off due to the international break and he will be hoping his side can snap a two-game losing streak when Dundee come to town.
The Steelmen lost their last match to Guildford Flames, as they slipped to a narrow defeat in a back and forth goal fest that finished 6-5 to the hosts.
Marek Troncinsky, Nikolai Lemtyugov, John Armstrong, Marc-Olivier Vallerand and Michael Davies provided the goals for Sheffield but they were without Anthony DeLuca, Josef Hrabal and the injured, Kieran Brown and Robert Dowd.
Also, defenseman, Ben O’Connor will be unavailable for the Steelers as he serves the first of his two-match ban for cross-checking in Guildford.
Reflecting on what he saw from his side last weekend, Stars Head Coach, Pacha said: “Obviously on Saturday it was disappointing to lose against Fife but I really liked the rebound we had against Guildford to get two points and to capitalise on our chances when we had them.
“I had mixed reactions but I liked the way we finished the weekend.”
Looking ahead to his side’s only fixture of the week, the Canadian coach added: “It is a huge game and each one is massive.
“But with it being a one game weekend, we really want to target this game to not only move up the standings but surprise people and I think Sheffield is always a fun place to play.
“It has a good atmosphere but we have to come prepared, we stay out the box and that we play well defensively.”
The Steelers are the highest scoring side in the league and Pacha expects his team to be tight and that back in order to create chances going forward.
He said: “They score on average 5.5 goals a game and that’s a lot of goals.
“So, if we are playing well defensively, we shut them down in different areas and stay out the box then that will give us the best chance to win but if we are playing run and gun then they will have too much firepower and they will hurt us.”
Dundee defender, Craig Gans thinks that having just the single game this weekend will allow them team to give it a little bit extra as they have nothing to hold energy back for.
He said: “We can really put it all out there for that one game and you don’t really have to save anything for the next night, so you can basically empty the tank for that one game.”
However, the Canadian blueliner is wary of coming up against the league’s best offence.
“They are a high scoring team and they are one of the best offensive teams in the league, so we just need to play tight defensively and cut down their chances”, added Craig.
Saturday’s match in Sheffield will face-off at 7pm.