Tonight: Title and playoff points up for grabs
Photo: Panthers Images
It's another full schedule of Elite League games this Saturday night and yet more crucial games at each end of the standings. No-one can win or lose a league title or playoff place this evening, but the race for each may have a very different complexion.
1900 Belfast Giants vs. Guildford Flames
Part two of these teams' doubleheader will see the Giants going for another home win following their 7-3 victory on Friday.
That win moved the Giants up into third and while they might now be considered as outsiders for the league title, another victory tonight would keep them still in the hunt if other teams slip up.
Guildford meanwhile again go in search of their first-ever win at the SSE Arena and are looking for their first road victory in three.
1900 Coventry Blaze vs. Glasgow Clan
Coventry's outside bid for the league title will need them to ensure they take maximum points this weekend against playoff-chasing Glasgow, and then on Sunday against top-five rivals Nottingham.
The Blaze are nine points behind with ten games to go, but have two in hand on the Steelers. They remain the league's most in-form team over the last 15 games with a return of 24 points over that spell and have extended their run of not losing in regulation to 13 games.
Glasgow come into town in the middle of a three in three which could shape their season. Clan were beaten at home by playoff rivals Manchester yesterday and visit the Storm tomorrow, but it's possible that Zach Fitzgerald's men could find themselves outside of the playoff places by the end of tonight unless they pick something up at the Skydome. Clan are hoping to end a run of five straight losses and find their first win in Coventry since November 2018.
1900 Dundee Stars vs. Manchester Storm
One of the day's biggest games sees Dundee hosting Manchester in a clash that is likely to have huge implications on the race for the playoffs.
Dundee lost to local rivals Fife in their only game of last weekend but still trail Glasgow by only a point and have now played one game fewer. On home ice ahead of a trip to Cardiff tomorrow, this really is one that the Stars are going to need to win if they want to secure a spot in the post-season. Dundee have nine games to go after tonight, and only four of them will be at home.
Manchester's win in Glasgow was their first on the road since mid-January and they head into Dundee hoping to extend the five-point cushion they now have over the Stars. They won a similarly billed matchup on 10 March last season which all-but ended the Stars' hopes of a playoff place. Will history repeat itself again?
1900 Nottingham Panthers vs. Cardiff Devils
At the top of the table, league-leaders Sheffield will be relying on rivals Nottingham doing them a favour at home to Cardiff.
A zero-point weekend for the Panthers last time out saw their title hopes take a serious dent, however if they were to win their games in hand they'd only be a pair of points off the top. What it does mean, however, is that Tim Wallace's side will probably have to go unbeaten in their remaining ten games to have a shot at lifting the league trophy.
Cardiff's chasing down of Sheffield stayed at a one-point gap after last week's games, and with three in hand, they continue to be in the best overall position to finish top after 54 games. Notting is however not a rink they have traditionally played well against the Panthers in, although they have won each of their league and cup visitors there this season so far. The Devils are also looking to extend their three-game unbeaten streak and while a loss wouldn't be a disaster for them, it would put a lot more pressure on their game against Sheffield next Friday.
1900 Sheffield Steelers vs. Fife Flyers
With all of the different possibilities going on below them, all Sheffield Steelers can do is try to keep winning games when Fife visit them this evening.
Sheffield were beaten in Kirkcaldy a few weeks ago but responded by picking up maximum points from their pair of games last weekend. The Steelers have only six games to play, four after this weekend, and need to keep putting points on the board - and give themselves confidence going into what will be a huge game in Cardiff next Friday.
Fife's playoff hopes were helped no end by the four-point weekend last time out, but with only seven games left they have put themselves in a position where they need to get something out of their only game of this weekend. A team that's picked up three wins from their last four however is not to be overlooked.