Edinburgh Capitals handed triple boost for Belfast clash

Edinburgh Capitals are still seeking their first win of the new ice hockey season. Pic: Jan Orkisz/SMP
Edinburgh Capitals are still seeking their first win of the new ice hockey season. Pic: Jan Orkisz/SMP
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Edinburgh Capitals have been handed a triple boost ahead of Saturday’s must-win Challenge Cup clash at Belfast Giants.

Last season’s top scorer, Pavel Vorobyev, is in line for his first start of the season, Slovakian winger Marek Tvrdon returns to the line-up after a three-game ban, and new signing Julius Nyqvist will make his club debut after the Finnish defenceman arrived in the city on Thursday.

Vorobyev, who returned to the country on Sunday after a delay with his work visa, looks set to centre a line with Sergei Banashkov and Igor Valeyev, whilst Tvrdon will replace the injured Taylor Stefishen, playing alongside Mike Cazzola and Dylan Anderson.

New addition Nyqvist, who signed for the club this week, played in the Finnish top-flight last season and, according to Capitals co-owner Scott Neil, comes to Edinburgh hungry and with a point to prove.

Neil said: “He’s been recommended to us (by ex-Capitals defenceman) Roland Carlsson. He’s a good young player, who wants to make a name for himself. He’s a guy we can play in all situations and should do well for us. He’s only 24, and it’s rare that we get a player who’s so young and has just stepped out of a really top league.”

With just one point from their opening three games in Group B, Caps must win in Northern Ireland and follow that up with another victory at home to Fife Flyers on Sunday at Murrayfield (face-off 6pm) for any chance to progress to the knockout stages of the competition.

Caps last won in Belfast in 2015 thanks in part to a double from then player-coach Richard Hartmann. Current boss Dmitri Khristich, although bitterly disappointed Edinburgh are still looking for their first win of the new campaign, insists they are getting closer to where they need to be to find success.

Last weekend, Edinburgh looked the better team despite a penalty-shot loss at Dundee Stars and came up against a red-hot goalie in Elite League player-of-the-week Ryan Nie in their 3-1 home loss to Braehead Clan.

“The games were close, but we didn’t get much out of them so in that respect it’s hard to say anything too positive,” said Khristich. “We need to play at a certain level for sixty minutes and, apart from a couple of minutes in each game, we’re getting closer to that.”

Two weeks ago, Edinburgh’s defence were picked apart in a 6-5 home loss to Belfast and Khristich continued: “We pay attention to something, and something else goes wrong. I guess it’s normal when you’re trying to establish yourself as a team. Fix one thing, break another. It’s probably going to take time but we’ll get it sorted.

“It’s nothing special. We need to score more goals and protect our net better. All the drills in practice are geared towards finishing the play and putting the puck in the net, plus we’re working on our defensive zone and picking up rebounds at both ends of the ice.”

Failure to win on Saturday will turn Sunday’s first Forth derby at Murrayfield this term into a dreaded dead rubber. However, regardless of the circumstances, Khristich promises no let-up as he looks for improvement in his team.

“No way. It won’t effect how we approach the game at all,” he said. “We’re working towards becoming a good, competitive team and any games we can play together helps us do that.

“The Challenge Cup is a short tournament alongside a long tournament (the Elite League). I’ve never really seen that in a season before. We probably weren’t ready for it. We’re a totally new team. For us, it’s about taking games one at a time.”

Meanwhile, in a Forth derby double, Edinburgh Capitals’ Scottish National League team take to the ice against Kirkcaldy Kestrels directly after the Capitals v Flyers match (face-off 8.30pm approx). Martin Cingel’s team have started the season in impressive fashion and will look to maintain their unbeaten start in the SNL.