Clan can achieve their title mission: Thornton
Steve Thornton expects Braehead Clan to stay in the Elite League title race all the way to the end of the season - and not just because they have an easier schedule than their rivals.
The league's Conference system, which sees the Giants face the Cardiff Devils, Coventry Blaze, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers eight times each, while Braehead only meet the stronger teams on four occasions, is designed to bring about more big games.
It does, however, means there is an imbalance and supposed weaker teams, like the Clan, can take advantage when they begin to make a mark.
Braehead are currently second in the table, four points ahead of the Belfast Giants ahead of a festive double-header against the Glasgow outfit, starting with a meeting at the Odyssey Arena tonight.
"It's not like it used to be, the Scottish teams are more competitive and Braehead have lost to Dundee and Edinburgh recently, but there is no doubt that our Conference is tougher - and I believe everyone can see that," said Giants coach Thornton.
"The teams will all beat each other and we know that every time we play Nottingham and Sheffield they are huge games - and we have more of them than Braehead.
"Take nothing away from them though.
"They deserve to be where they are right now.
"They have taken points off Cardiff, Sheffield and ourselves and they have a good roster, with scoring power, a tight defence and good goaltending.
"I believe that they are capable of winning the league and I think that if they put a run together now in the post-Christmas games they will become favourites."
Thornton added: "It was important that we didn't lose ground and I was pleased with the way we stayed in tight games and saw them through to get the points."