Ice Hockey: But captain hopes to ‘shut Panthers down’

Jan Safar, left, in action for the Caps
Jan Safar, left, in action for the Caps
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Edinburgh CAPITALS travel to England to face off against second-placed Nottingham Panthers tonight, before returning to Murrayfield to do battle with their closest rivals in the Elite League, Hull Stingrays, on Sunday.

Club captain Jan Safar knows just how difficult it will be against the big-spending Nottingham outfit: “It will be hard. We’re definite underdogs for that game. Nobody expects us to win. We’re going to be trying our best and give them a good run. Hopefully we can score a couple of goals and our defence can shut them down.”

Shutting down Nottingham will be a big ask for the Murrayfield men. Panthers are traditionally a very attack-minded team, and this year is proving no exception. Currently they lead the league in goals scored, finding the back of the net 104 times in just 23 games.

The East Midlands outfit have only lost twice at home this season, and inflicted a 7-3 defeat to the Capitals on their last visit to the 10,000-capacity National Ice Centre in October.

After last week’s energy- sapping three games in three days, this week the Capitals have been afforded something of a luxury in the Elite League – a Saturday night off – before they play the Hull Stingrays on Sunday (face-off 6pm).

Safar is grateful for the respite, and believes it can only help the Edinburgh club prepare for the Stingrays clash: “Coach [Richard] Hartmann is looking to get us some extra ice time on Saturday so we can have a light skate before Sunday’s game.

“It can only be a good thing that we have the day off and should help keep us fresh so the guys can give a 100 per cent performance on Sunday night.”

The Czech believes more time between games would benefit the players. He added: “We don’t have many guys, so, for me, it would be better because we could use the rest. Back home in the Czech Republic they never play two games in a row – they always have a day or two in-between games. Over here it’s more of a North American style where they play games all the time.”

Edinburgh will be boosted by a return from injury for Slovakian defenceman Tomas Valecko, but will still be without Jozef Sladok and Martin Petrina. The injuries will leave the Capitals short at the back, but Safar expects player-coach Hartmann to continue in an unfamiliar defensive role, after a successful stint in the position for the veteran in last Sunday’s 3-2 shootout loss against the Coventry Blaze. Safar said: “Richard’s going to help out at the back. He did a great job on Sunday. He’s got so much experience. He can play anywhere.”

Presently, Edinburgh sit in seventh place in the Elite League, four points ahead of eighth-placed Hull. The top eight sides qualify for the end-of-season play-offs.

Earlier this week, Dundee Stars directors took the decision to axe their player-coach Dan Ceman. Last season the Canadian guided the club to the play-offs in its inaugural Elite League campaign. Former assistant player-coach Brent Hughes was handed the reins after Ceman’s departure.

Dundee director Mike Ward said: “Performances over the past few weeks have been less than expected.”