Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Belfast Giants happy to focus on Vipers

Brad all over: Belfast Giants' new-boy Brad Smyth was on target for Doug Christiansen's men last night as they notched up a hard-fought win over Dundee Stars

Doug Christiansen is relishing the opportunity to give his overworked Belfast Giants players a rest — but not before they collect two points against the Newcastle Vipers tonight.

The fixture schedule is set to ease the workload on his injury ravaged troops, with as many as five members of his roster missing from recent games.

That has meant an increased amount of ice time for those who are fit to play and having just one game on each of the next two weekends as well as November being the lightest month of the season with just seven fixtures scheduled, Christiansen is ready to scale down the intensity and regularity of training sessions.

As well as that, it means that players aren’t finishing games on a Saturday night at the Odyssey knowing that their alarm will go off at 5am on Sunday in order to fly out for an away game that night and then be met with a similarly timed wake-up the next morning.

“It’s good that we have two one-game weekends coming up,” said Christiansen. “It means that the guys can focus on that one game, Newcastle this weekend and Cardiff next and manage themselves physically and mentally with just 60 minutes of play in mind rather than two games with travel and other things involved in between.

“It also gives us a chance to get guys healthy. It’s been tough on the guys who are playing when we’re so short on player, but they are getting through it by putting everything they have into game, but they’ve earned a rest and they’ll get it over the next couple of weeks.

“It’s a good time for us not to have as busy a schedule in terms of games because we’ve some tough ones coming up at the end of November.

“We face Braehead home and away and then a double header against Sheffield.”

The current injury trouble that Christiansen has been met with is something that hasn’t struck the

Giants in a long time, despite the fact that in two years in charge of the team former coach Steve Thornton only had a fully fit roster on a handful of occasions.

The Giants have still managed to maintain their advantage at the top of the Elite League table, but reinforcements — in the shape of defenceman Michael Jacobsen — arrive until next weekend.

“We’ve only dropped points in three games this season, so we’re happy with that and it’s credit to the guys who have been going out there recently when we’ve been short-benched who have kept us on winning form,” said Christiansen.

The Vipers’ Whitley Bay Arena hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Giants in the past.

The venue is regarded as having one of the most difficult ice surfaces in the Elite League, but Christiansen won’t accept any excuses, especially considering that his team has already claimed a victory there this season.

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