SUNDAY’S big date with league leaders Belfast Giants is being seen by some Sheffield Steelers fans as the most significant match of the season so far.
But player-coach Ryan Finnerty is determined not to overlook the obvious - another Arena fixture, the night before, against Hull Stingrays.
“It would be pointless to beat Belfast having lost to Hull,” he said.
“If we look past them they could beat us. All of our games against them have been close and they are a team that deserves some respect.
“Hull like to battle with us all the way and they want their spot in the Play-offs.”
Finnerty believes Hull have players who can damage their title defence unless they are contained.
“Jason Silverthorn is having a good year for them, Dominic Osman works hard and Jereme Tendler scores a lot of goals (31 in 46 games),” he said.
Finnerty goes into Sunday’s battle with Belfast well prepared, after a scouting mission: “I went to watch them play up in Glasgow last week and saw what a well-rounded team they are. They have no real weakness in their line-up.
“They are well coached and rolled six defencemen behind three solid lines. Each of those lines can find the net. Their scoring is spread out, like ours, and you can’t tell them apart in terms of ability.
“Their goalie, Stephen Murphy, is good and the fact Belfast have overcome so many injury problems and stayed at the top must mean something.”
Giants have a big night on Saturday themselves. They host Cardiff Devils in an Elite League/Challenge Cup semi-final second leg (they lost the first leg 2-1) before hopping over to England for a 5pm face-off.
Giants, who recorded back-to-back wins at Braehead Clan and Fife Flyers last weekend, lead second-placed Nottingham Panthers by five points.
They are ahead of third-placed Steelers by seven points, but Finnerty’s side have six games in hand.
So a maximum-point weekend - including a Sunday win in regular time - would represent a big psycholgical boost for the defending champions.