James Desmarais calling on Belfast Giants to focus
James Desmarais has warned that complacency can't be allowed to creep into the Belfast Giants' mindset as they face two battles with the Edinburgh Capitals this weekend.
The Giants are in Scotland for a pre-Christmas double-header and having faced the Capitals four times already, Desmarais is wary of the threat they pose to his team's hopes of eating into the Cardiff Devils' eight-point lead at the top of the Elite League table.
Although the Giants have won each meeting with Edinburgh, they haven't always had things easy and the Caps have scored 11 times in those clashes.
The last 10 games show just how patchy the Giants' form has been this season, with five wins and five defeats in that time.
That has saw them drop from top spot to fifth and Desmarais is determined to reverse things as a busy run of eight games between now and the first week of the New Year begins.
"This is a big weekend for us with the standings the way they are," said the 36-year-old Canadian.
"Every point is really, really important to us. We know Edinburgh well, we have played against them a few times and we know how dangerous they can be.
"We need to play a solid game defensively and take our chances when we get them."
With 16 points to play for in the space of three weeks, the look of the table could be very different by early 2016 and Desmarais wants to make sure that is the case where the Giants are concerned.
"There are a lot of games coming up, but it's one game at a time and we have to make sure we're focused on every opponent individually," he said.
"We know how important every point is in the standings so we've got to be ready.
"Getting good rest between the games is going to be important too."
The days of Edinburgh being the whipping boys of the league are almost certainly over.
They are only six points behind the Giants at present and have won nine of their 25 matches.
They have also beaten Cardiff (twice), the Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers at Murrayfield this season and that, as much as anything, is a sign of how close the Elite League has become with the Scottish teams in particular upping their game.
"I heard in the past that sometimes there were teams you could walk in and you knew you were going to beat them that night, but I don't see any teams like that this year. That's good credit to this league," said Desmarais.
"Unfortunately for us it means we have to be ready for every single game.
"It makes for good games and it forces us to be a constant team."
Giants player-coach Derrick Walser is again expected to have close to a full strength line-up available.
Colin Shields, who missed last weekend, is the only possible doubt and Walser will have to make a choice over which import he will have to leave out.