EAGLES forward Charles Smith is bidding to make a shock return from serious injury problems after making rapid progress during the two weeks.
While it is unlikely he will play any part at Milton Keynes tonight, Newcastle captain Andrew Bridge revealed Smith’s season is far from over.
He could even make his return a week on Sunday in the final home game of the regular season.
Bridge said: “We are hoping Charles will get the all-clear to play.
“I don’t imagine he will play tonight, but if it goes well he will play some minutes against Sheffield.
“He will have 20 days of practice before the play-offs start, and that is a nice amount of time for a comeback.
“We are playing a bit differently without him, so that gives everyone plenty of time to adjust.”
If Smith does get back on the Eagles’ bench in time for the play-offs, this will be a huge boost to Fab Flournoy’s men fulfilling their dream of completing a BBL silverware double.
For now, though, they will be focusing all their attention on another physical battle against the Lions.
Indeed, Bridge will go to Bletchley still sporting the black eye which was caused by a stray elbow from Yorick Williams when the teams met at the Arena recently.
The guard is not expecting the Lions to ditch their aggression this time – perhaps the best reason not to risk Smith.
Bridge added: “It will be tough down there for us.
“There were two incidents last time we played against them. We will play hard, but the main thing is not to pick up any injuries.”
Milton Keynes coach Vince Macaulay has paid tribute to the Eagles ahead of the clash, despite having had his differences with Newcastle and their fans during the season.
He said: “I would like to extend our congratulations to Newcastle for winning the championship.
“They were the only team who deserved it, and I am pleased their hard work has paid off for them.
“To win it on Guildford’s floor must have been even sweeter.
“I expect Fab will still want to win as many games as possible, and that they will come out and play hard as usual.
“I was surprised to see Steve Leven score 30 points against Guildford, as I never saw him as a high scorer.
“It has always been Lynard Stewart, Olu Babalola and Darius Defoe when we have played them.
“It has been a battle of the big men, and I don’t expect it to be any different this time.”
Flournoy might be tempted to play his young bench tonight and give the likes of Stewart a well-earned rest, although the play-caller does not have a lot of depth at the moment with Smith and Hyatt still struggling with their respective injury problems.