Paul Thompson wants his Sheffield Steelers to make a powerful Elite League point against Cardiff Devils on Saturday.
Reigning champions Devils start the 2017-17 League season by playing Steelers away followed by Nottingham Panthers in Cardiff Bay on Sunday (6pm).
“We want to get off to a good start,” says Sheffield’s head coach Thompson. “They (Devils) had better of us in the League last season and we had the better of them in play-offs.
“Our aim is to get off to a good win.”
Devils clinched the League title at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena and won three trophies over the season, while Steelers defeated Cardiff in the play-off final in Nottingham.
This Saturday’s clash in South Yorkshire (7pm) is the first League fixture for both clubs and Steelers will be without defenceman Zack Fitzgerald and winger Matt Marquardt, while John Armstrong is doubtful.
Sheffield played new signings Tim Wallace, Jonas Westerling and Juha Koivisto on the same line against Manchester Storm (home, 6-3 win) and Nottingham (away, 6-5 win).
“Those three guys are going to have get used to knowing each other,” said Thompson. “I thought they were excellent.”
Levi Nelson scored Sheffield’s winner against Panthers with one second of regulation time left and linemate Robert Dowd said: “Levi plays the game hard and that’s why everybody loves him here.
“He has a wicked shot and once he gets free he can really pick his spot.”
Down insists the intensity which is a feature of Steelers v Devils matches has ‘turned into a healthy rivalry.’
“Cardiff are flying off their Champions League games right now, so we’ll see how it one goes,” says Dowd. “It’ll be a fast paced game.
“Our team is faster this season and you can see that on all lines. We have plenty of speed when we are going.
“We have upgraded at the back and are really solid back there.
“The additions of (Joonas) Ronnberg and (Mark) Matheson – they are two great players.
“Mark is fantastic, he has great hands and patience on the puck. He is outstanding, really nice to play with.
“(Scott) Aarssen as well is such a steady strong d-man, who makes the right play at the right place. I think we have picked up some great d-men.”
Devils player-coach Andrew Lord was on the bench for their two Challenge Cup group games last weekend. Cardiff won 5-2 against MK Lightning, but lost 8-4 at Guildford Flames.
Lord’s men cannot afford a similar below-par display in either of their League matches this weekend and the coach may be skating in one of both.
Devils have an extra import on their roster and one players will have to sit it out on each day, whether that’s Lord or somebody else.
Prices are adults £38, concession £35, children £19.
Tickets for Sunday’s home match against Panthers are selling fast and information is available on 0800 0842 666 or book in person at Ice Arena Wales.