Panthers v Steelers Christmas Games Preview

Christmas is coming, so that can only mean that Nottingham Panthers & Sheffield Steelers will be renewing hostilities as the teams play back to back fixtures on Boxing Day and Monday 27th.
Steelers will be on a bit of a high after much maligned owner Bob Philips has finally sold the team to Cardiff Devils owner Paul Ragan, a man who looks to have the business acumen that the Steelers have been lacking for so many years.
Going into the games Steelers have a slightly better record since the two teams last meeting on 29th October in Sheffield, which Panthers took 5-2. Since then Steelers have played 15 games, winning 12 (1 ot) and losing 3, scoring 66 goals (4.40 per game) and conceding 38 (2.52 per game). Panthers have played 14 games, winning 9, losing 4 (2 ot) and drawing 1, scoring 62 goals (4.43 per game) and conceding 36 (2.57 per game). The records are close though, especially in goals scored and conceded and I expect we will see two close games.
Both sides will also be at least one import down as both Alex Penner for Panthers and Derek Campbell for Steelers will be missing both games through suspension. There are also doubts over Steelers defenceman Steve Munn who hasn’t played since being boarded by Brad Voth in Cardiff on 11th December. Panthers may also have netminder Craig Kowalski returning from a groin tear, but if he doesn’t make it Kevin St. Pierre will continue to deputise.
I feel if Munn is missing that gives Panthers a slight advantage as the Steelers defence won’t be as strong, this could give the Panthers the chance to expose netminder Ervins Mustukovs, who despite his stats I simply do not rate. I feel his success is more down to the Steelers defence rather than his netminding skills, I’d like to see what his Goals Against Average would be if he were backstopping one of the so-called ‘lower’ teams.
In saying that though, Steelers will be a tough team to beat (if not that tough on the ice!) but with no Munn or Campbell Panthers should be able to bully Steelers, Neil Clark offers very little threat in the toughness stakes so we have nothing to worry about if it starts to get chippy. However, the offensive threat of Tait, Legue, Simon, Dowd and Talbot will have to be kept at bay. If we can nullify their threat I think both games will be there for Panthers taking as I think the offensive capability that we possess will be too much for the Steelers, but we will need the defence and KSP/K-Wall to be on top of their game.
No predictions from me though, I just hope that the games are decided by the players on the ice and not the guys in black & white stripes!

Both games will be covered by TCW Live. Links will appear on The Cat’s Whiskers tomorrow.


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