Derrick Walser furious as Rutherford is hit with ban
Derrick Walser has slammed the decision that has left him without recent signing David Rutherford as the Belfast Giants begin what could turn out to be a crucial four days in the Elite League title race.
Rutherford, who was signed from the Edinburgh Capitals just two weeks ago, has made an immediate impact on a Giants team that has recorded four successive victories since he made his debut, but he won't be on the ice when they take on the Fife Flyers tonight.
The 28-year-old - who will return for the home games against the Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers tomorrow and Tuesday respectively - has been banned for one match after he was deemed to have head-butted Manchester Storm's Devin Didiomete during the final period of Tuesday night's Challenge Cup quarter-final victory.
The Department of Player Safety ratified the automatic one-match suspension, but Walser believes the match officials were too quick in making their decision.
"I think if David Rutherford gets a suspension then the other guy should get one too," said Walser.
"He took three hits to the head and although I don't think what he did was 100 per cent unintentional, neither do I think it was 100 per cent intentional.
"He was trying to protect himself against a guy that he had no chance of beating if it had turned into a fight.
"The officials should have realised that we were leading 6-2 and their guy didn't make a big stink of it and get at the referee.
"The game was over at that stage and two minutes would have sorted it out.
"The good news is that we will have David fresh for Sunday, which is a big game."
Rutherford's absence comes at a time when the Giants have doubts over other players, including Walser, who sat out Tuesday's victory.
The player-coach won't get drawn into selecting his team for tonight with tomorrow in mind, but he knows they will be two very different games.
"Fife is a challenge and games like this are 90 per cent preparation," said Walser.
"Nottingham is all about will - who wants it more.
"We are two well matched teams and I believe whoever wants it more will come away with the two points."
The Giants will host the second leg of their Challenge Cup semi-final against the Cardiff Devils on Tuesday, February 23.
The Devils had been due in Belfast for an Elite League game on that date, but it will now become the semi-final with the league meeting rescheduled for Wednesday, March 16.
The away leg in Cardiff will be played on Sunday, February 7.