Lightning eye weekend double to keep pace at top

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THIS weekend is a very significant one for MK Lightning as they welcome title rivals Manchester Phoenix to Planet Ice on Saturday night before visiting bottom side Telford Tigers 24 hours later.

Taking on both sides for the third time this season, Lightning go into the weekend sat third in the English Premier League table and within striking distance of second placed Phoenix and leaders Basingstoke Bison.

Lightning have won one and lost one against the north west side this term – their victory coming in emphatic style as Manchester were thrashed 8-2 at Planet Ice on the opening night.

However, the city side haven’t done so well against Tigers, surprisingly losing both meetings with the basement boys, who also cost Manchester their place at the top by beating them last time out.

Lightning’s return to Telford on Sunday comes three weeks after their last trip to Shropshire which was marred by Adam Calder’s serious hip injury. General manager Vito Rausa says his men have no axe to grind with Tigers in that respect, but they do owe them a good beating.

“We have a score to settle with Telford,” he said. “Not because of what happened to Adam, but for what has happened on the ice against them this season.

“But before that Manchester will be gunning for us big time after our win against them, and because they’re coming into the game on the back of losing to Telford.

“We’re looking good in third place and going well in the cup competition too. But to keep it going we really need to be looking to get four points this weekend.”

Lightning welcome back Great Britain star Leigh Jamieson for the games, and Rausa believes his return to the side will help them improve one aspect of their game he feels needs work – their powerplay.

But even if they haven’t been firing on all cylinders, Lightning have still been winning games, including last Sunday’s vital success at Sheffield Steeldogs which came 24 hours after Nick Poole’s men lost at Slough Jets.

Rausa described that win as ‘colossal’ and has challenged the players to start scoring more goals, starting against Manchester on Saturday night.

“If we can get 40 shots away against them, that would be great,” he said. “It’s been going well this season, and I would have taken third place at this stage if you offered it to me, but I also think we’ve got a lot more to give.

“Jaimo coming back will be a fantastic boost. He’s had a lot of stick from the guys for being out in Japan, but they know he’s important to the team. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves sometimes.

“All in all, at this stage, we’re very happy with how things are going. We’ll be even happier if we get another four points at the weekend.”