Panthers Preview Devils & Stars

The Nottingham Panthers face a home double this weekend as they welcome both the Cardiff Devils and the Dundee Stars to the NIC.

The Panthers, who have recently fell to 7th in the Elite League, take on the Devils at 7pm on Saturday night, before a quick turnaround to face the Stars at 4pm on Sunday.

Corey Neilson’s side will be hoping to bounce back with two wins on home ice, after defeats home and away to the Belfast Giants last week took their current run of form to just one win from their last seven games.

Neilson will be able to call on the services of Czech forward Jakub Izacky after he arrived in Nottingham earlier in the week.

The 29-year-old, who has spent the first part of the season playing for DEAC of the Hungarian and Romanian Erste Liga, will look to bring additional firepower to a Panthers forward line that has scored the 7th lowest number of goals in the league.

With the usual quick turnaround between games, it’s likely that import netminders Peyton Jones and Alex Dubeau will split the weekend and play one game each.

A handful of defeats for the Guildford Flames and the Sheffield Steelers have left the door open somewhat for Cardiff, who now find themselves sat in third place and very much in the thick of a four-horse title race.

The Devils notched a comfortable 5-1 home victory over the Glasgow Clan on Wednesday night, but the short turnaround between the two games could put Brodie Dupont’s side at a slight disadvantage ahead of the clash with the Panthers on Saturday.

Cardiff are a fearsome prospect for any opponent in front of goal. Their total of 157 goals in 42 games is good enough for second best in the league, behind only the current table toppers, the Belfast Giants.

With Cole Sanford, Trevor Cox, Marcus Crawford and Joey Martin the Devils have four of the league’s top eight points scorers in their ranks. Sanford, in particular, is a huge threat to any team and his 31 goals in 40 games mean he currently sits right at the very top of the league’s goalscoring chart.

However, with three wins from their five meetings, the Panthers have matched up relatively well against the Devils this season and have beaten the Welsh side 5-2 in both of their previous visits to the East Midlands. Stretch this run back into last season and you’ll find that the Devils have left with the points just once in their last six trips to the NIC.

However, with 15 wins and just five defeats from their last 20 games, the Devils will certainly provide a difficult test for Nottingham.

Sunday’s game, however, is one that Nottingham should be winning. Dundee sit rock bottom of the Elite League and five points off the eight placed Fife Flyers, who occupy the final Playoff spot (although the Stars do have three games in hand.)

Geoff Mason’s team have won just eight of their 40 games this season and are currently on a run of two wins in their last 11. At 172, they have conceded the most goals in the league and their own total of 99 is only good enough for the league’s 9th best total.

The Panthers have made fairly hard work of their games against the Stars so far this season though. A 6-2 home win at the end of September was the highlight of the three meetings, before their trips North of the border in October and December respectively yielded a 4-2 defeat, followed by a narrow 5-4 overtime win.

Dundee do have the tools to cause problems in Nottingham. Top scorer Elijiah Barriga has 41 points from his 40 games (more than any Panthers player) and the Stars’ powerplay is the league’s third best.

However, should Neilson’s Panthers deal with these threats effectively, all the signs point towards a comfortable home win to end the weekend.

*Article provided by Evan Shaw (Nottingham Panthers Correspondent).

*Main image @PanthersIHC the Panthers will be hoping for more cheers this weekend.

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