Giants relishing Devils challenge, blasts Walser
Derrick Walser has admitted that tomorrow night's Challenge Cup semi-final first leg in Cardiff is the Belfast Giants' biggest game of the weekend.
That, however, won't stop him from going all out to beat the Sheffield Steelers this evening as he claims that after losing six of the seven meetings between the teams this season the Giants 'owe them one.'
The Steelers put a big hole in the Giants' Elite League title chances when they won 2-1 at the SSE Arena on Tuesday night, leaving Walser's team 11 points adrift of leaders Cardiff with 13 games to go - although the Devils have only 11 left to play.
It is no surprise therefore that, given the choice, Walser would prefer a big win in Wales to victory in Yorkshire, but the one thing he wants most is an increased level of effort after losing seven of their last nine league games.
"Every game is big for us, but the Cardiff game, if I'm honest, is the bigger one for us," explained Walser.
"We have to go to Sheffield first though and we've got to go there and compete and battle and work our tails off.
"We have a chance to win the game the same as we do wherever we go, but there has to be effort.
"We owe Sheffield one. In most of the games against them we've been OK, but in the one game that we played well we won.
"It was a mistake that cost us against them on Tuesday, but we still didn't bring our top game against them.
"We did do some good things, but it's all about consistency.
"If you look at our stats, our top players against the top teams, they just aren't there."
Sheffield are likely to encounter a different Giants team tonight than they faced on Tuesday - and not just because Walser fired a rocket at his players and put them through a tough training session on Wednesday morning.
Since then he has tried to implement a number of changes in a short period of time and both Walser himself and forward Chris Higgins are closing in on returns after injury, meaning another of the Giants imports may find himself out of the team tonight.
"I've looked at our systems and made some changes and adjustments because I have seen some things that I think we can maybe do better," said Walser.
"We've worked on our penalty kill and changed things up, but no matter what I do the players have got to be willing to work - otherwise we are never going to have success."
Walser is optimistic that the Giants can claim a Challenge Cup final place by beating Cardiff, but everything depends on their ability to get the better of the top teams.
"We have to create our own luck and create our own chances by working hard and no more messing around," he said.