Leeds Knights: Centre Matty Davies returns to face Sheffield Steeldogs but key defenceman ruled out for weekend
MATTY DAVIES will be back in the Leeds Knights line-up as they look to ensure finishing top of the Autumn Cup group standings when they travel to Sheffield Steeldogs tonight.
The experienced centre has missed the last four games for the Knights but returns in time for abusy weekend which sees Dave Whistle’s team tackle three games in as many days.
After tonight’s clash at Ice Sheffield, the Knights get their NIHL National season underway at Elland Road against Bees IHC, before heading to Peterborough Phantoms on Sunday, where they will hope to avenge last weekend’s 5-4 defeat - their first of the season.
Forward Mack Stewart returns to the fold, having played two games for Belfast Giants in the Challenge Cup last weekend, and looking to build on the impressive performances he put in for Leeds two weekends ago, when he contributed three assists during the 10-4 win at home to Raiders IHC.
But while Whistle has options among his forwards, he will have to make do without defenceman Ben Solder all weekend, as he has been called back up to the Elite League by parent club, Manchester Storm, once again.
In goal, Sam Gospel will stand down with Ben Churchfield - signed on a two-way deal from Sheffield Steelers on Thursday getting the start.
“We really needed Matty for these three games, he brings a lot of offence to the team, he wins a lot of face offs,” said Whistle about the veteran centre’s return to the fray. “He’s an older guy who has been in the league a long time and he understands what needs to be done.
“We’ll be real happy to have him back, especially for the three-game weekend as you can get a bit tired but, luckily, we don’t have a long travel schedule this weekend, which helps when you have this many games in such a short space of time.
“It’s a shame about Ben but it’s another opportunity for him to get some Elite League experience.”
Ahead of tonight’s Yorkshire derby, Whistle said the pre-season meeting between the two teams at Elland Road - which the Knights edged 3-2 - would provide no clue on how the latest meeting would go.
“It was the beginning of the season, it was a one-goal game and I didn’t have the same guys playing with each other as I do now,” he added. “I think the two teams are pretty evenly-matched, Sheffield seem to be scoring a lot of goals, so we’ve been working on a lot of defensive zone coverage this week and working on a few other things that can maybe help us create more offence.
“We’re obviously focussed totally on the Steeldogs but, at the same time, the league starts Saturday so, firstly, we want to come out of the Sheffield game with a win but, also, come out of it healthy because we want to start off our league campaign with a win at home against the Bees, too.”