Doug Christiansen expects Jeff Legue to be fired up when he returns from being dropped by Sheffield Steelers for the first time in seven seasons.
The coach sent a message that no player is immune from being sidelined if they are not performing to peak standards.
And Christiansen is buoyed by the fact his team played with a “snarl” in Sunday’s 5-1 win over Coventry Blaze.
Asked by The Star if his dropping of Legue was designed to send a message to the rest of the side, he replied: “You are probably right, Jeff Legue is a franchise player and we need to make sure we have all our franchise players going; but competition (for places) is a healthy thing.
“Jeff knows what I think about him, he’s an outstanding player and an outstanding person. He is an asset to this club. But we have to play our absolute best as a team.”
Christiansen said Legue had scored 23 goals this season “for a reason” and he expected him to bounce back. “He is a professional. He is disappointed, but I expect that to fuel and fire him and hopefully he’ll be scoring those clutch goals we know he can do.”
The coach was fulsome in his praise of Danny Meyers and Chris Blight, who dropped the gloves against Blaze. “The guys had a bit of snarl, they were physical on the forecheck, definitely ruffling some feathers. They stood up for each other and themselves.”
He said the fights had “energised the building.”
Steelers host Nottingham Panthers at the Arena tomorrow, in the first leg of the Challenge Cup final.
* With the IIHF World Championship only two months away, Steelers coach Christiansen, who is Great Britain Men’s head coach has named an initial 35-man squad.
There are nine uncapped players in Christiansen’s first squad since taking over, with Coventry Blaze’s Russell Cowley declaring himself unavailable.
The squad will be cut to 27 for the start of Great Britain’s pre-World Championship training camp in April and then reduced to the 23 players for Lithuania after GB’s two home internationals against Netherlands.
The Great Britain squad will travel to Vilnius for the World Championship (Division 1B) from 20th to 26th April and will come up against hosts Lithuania, along with Croatia, Netherlands, Poland and Romania.
Christiansen said: “We wanted to get a nice blend. There are a number of players knocking on the door and also a number of top-quality players in our league. We want to get to Lithuania and hit the ground running. Our expectation and goal is to finish top of the group. But you look at the teams in our group - Netherlands have done well and Poland have been excellent.
“Poland have beaten Italy, Hungary and Ukraine. They are a team who views this as the same opportunity that we do.”
GB’s warm-up games with Netherlands will take place at iceSheffield on Saturday 12th April (7:30pm) and in Coventry’s Skydome (5:15pm) a day later.
“Being able to get the guys together and put them on the ice is important,” added Christiansen.
“It is great there is a quality team coming in to play us before we travel and being a team in our World Championship group it will give us the opportunity not only to see our own players, but to see them. I think it is going to be something for us which is very, very important.”
GB LONG-LIST PRELIMINARY SQUAD
Ben Bowns - Hull Stingrays
Stevie Lyle - Swindon Wildcats
Stephen Murphy - Belfast Giants
Mike Will - Braehead Clan
Josh Batch - Cardiff Devils
James Griffin - Coventry Blaze
Steve Lee - Nottingham Panthers
Sam McCluskey - Dundee Stars
Danny Meyers - Sheffield Steelers
Ben O’Connor - Arlan Kokshetau
David Phillips - Belfast Giants
Kevin Phillips - Belfast Giants
Mark Richardson Cardiff Devils
Paul Swindlehurst - Dundee Stars
Mark Thomas - Sheffield Steelers
Jonathan Weaver - Nottingham Panthers
Jonathan Boxill - Nottingham Panthers
David Clarke - Nottingham Panthers
Ben Davies - Cardiff Devils
Matty Davies - Hull Stingrays
Robert Dowd - Sheffield Steelers
Robert Farmer - Nottingham Panthers
Mark Garside - Belfast Giants
Matt Haywood - Braehead Clan
Jason Hewitt - Sheffield Steelers
Phil Hill - Sheffield Steelers
Robert Lachowicz - Nottingham Panthers
Matthew Myers - Cardiff Devils
Aaron Nell - Swindon Wildcats
Craig Peacock - Belfast Giants
Jonathan Phillips - Sheffield Steelers
Colin Shields - Belfast Giants
Ashley Tait - Coventry Blaze
Matt Towe - Braehead Clan
Ross Venus - Coventry Blaze
Head Coach - Doug Christiansen
Assistant Coaches - Corey Neilson & Peter Russell
General Manager - Andy Buxton
Equipment Managers - Jason Ellery & Steve Small
Physiotherapists - Nikki Sherlock & Mairi MacPhail
Doctor - Dr Matt Robbins