Belfast Giants will dig in and wait for cavalry
Published 30/12/2011 | 00:00
Experience is telling Mark Garside that Belfast Giants coach Doug Christiansen is ready for every eventuality that will come his way as the Elite League title race enters a crucial phase.
The Scottish centreman has known Christiansen longer than any other player in the Giants squad, having been part of his team in Edinburgh before both made the switch to this side of the Irish Sea.
Having had to play a backs-to-the-wall style in most games during his time with the Capitals, Garside is prepared to adopt similar tactics now that the Giants are very much in the thick of a title fight with the Nottingham Panthers, whilst in the midst of a spate of injuries and suspensions.
Christiansen and his players will make no excuse for a no-frills performance when the Cardiff Devils come to the Odyssey Arena tonight as Aaron Clarke's ban means the Giants must play an import short, while James Hutchinson remains injured, but the home fans won't care as long as their team comes out with a win, especially after Tuesday night's defeat to Braehead.
"We have to dig in, keep going and keep on finding ways to win games. The main philosophy is that we have to work harder with less guys on the bench," said Garside (pictured).
"Coming from coaching a smaller team before coming to Belfast, Doug knows how to play on the back foot, but we know what we have to do and he'll be organised to do things when we're under pressure that will help to get results.
"We've struggled with injuries since I came here, but we're at the top of the league and we've still a good chance of winning the league despite being down a few guys and Brock McBride leaving.
"We have to keep going and pull through it."
The good news for the Giants players is that reinforcements are on the way. Tonight's game is the last of Clarke's six-match suspension so he will be back in the line-up for Monday's trip to Dundee.
Christiansen is also hoping to finalise the signing of a replacement for McBride within the next few days, although it's likely to be another two weeks before he arrives in Belfast.
"I have made significant progress the last two days in finding a new player," revealed Christiansen.
"We are getting closer, however I do not expect the new player to be in the line-up before the Coventry double header (on January 13 and 14)."
Christiansen has challenged Garside and the rest of his Brit pack to fill the void left by the injuries and suspensions that have ripped through his squad and the Scotsman - along with an Englishman and an Irishman - have met that challenge with some aplomb.
Craig Peacock remains the top scoring British player in the league and Belfast-born defenceman Graeme Walton has also contributed to the overall team success, scoring twice in recent matches.
"The reason why I came here was to challenge for trophies. It's much more fun to play when you're winning and it's great to be here playing in a team that is at the top of the league," said Garside.
"There's a bit of pressure at the minute, but if there's times when we have to sit back because we've lost a bit of momentum or because guys are fatigued we'll do that, but as much as we can we'll want to push on."