MANCHESTER Phoenix take on the Sheffield Steeldogs and the Telford Tigers this weekend.
Although both are in the bottom half of the table, Tony Hand’s troops will not be taking either game lightly.
Phoenix may have won all three league meetings with the Steeldogs but, apart from the 11-2 blow-out early in the season, the Dogs provided stern opposition, with 5-3 and 6-4 results in Phoenix’s favour.
Andre Payette’s men have had an up and down season but are improving now they have their full squad back.
The Steeldogs’ player-coach moved into the player market this week and snapped up exciting British forward Tom Squires.
Tom had just been released by Hull Stingrays after an injury-hit season and signed for his home town club.
Although not a prolific scorer, he has been well thought of and has played for the Sheffield Steelers and Hull Stingrays in the Elite League.
The Steeldogs will be looking for the usual high energy intensity they always bring to the table against Phoenix.
Phoenix are playing well, sit proudly at the top of the table and will have their mind set on bringing the points back across the Pennines.
On Sunday, Telford Tigers come to town for the second time this season, having inflicted Phoenix’s only defeat at the Dome this season with a 5-4 penalty shot win.
Since then, Telford have strengthened their side with some very good signings over the past two months.
Joe Miller joined from Bison, Rick Plant from Guildford, Dan Scott and Dan Davies from Slough and Tom Murdy from Peterborough.
Add a more than capable import duo of Timo Kuuluvainen and Miika Kiviranta up front and Jaroslav Kruzik in defence and they have the makings of a very good side.
Phoenix know it is going to be another tough weekend in the league but are playing confidently and the squad will want to avenge that lone defeat from early in the season.
Press officer Jim Piper caught up with coach Tony Hand for his thoughts on the weekend.
Hand said: “We are at that stage of the season where every game is important and we are looking to pick up points every weekend.
“We have a good rivalry with Sheffield and the games are always intense.
“We will have to be at our best on the night.
“Telford have made some good signings and now have a very strong line up. They are on a good run and, with wins over Guildford and Basingstoke under their belt, will be looking to add us to that.
“We will do as we always do and be well prepared for what should be a great game at the Dome.”
Phoenix v Tigers faces off on Sunday at the regular time of 5.30pm.