Belfast Telegraph

Riley is urging Giants to hit the ground running

 

By Stuart McKinley

Blair Riley will lead the Belfast Giants into competitive action for the first time tomorrow night and the new captain is hammering home the message to his team-mates that every point matters in the Elite League.

Head coach Adam Keefe has chosen Riley to succeed him in wearing the 'C' on his chest after moving behind the bench.

The on-ice leader may have changed, but ahead of facing the league's newcomers this weekend the mantra remains the same, with Riley spelling out to those who are new to the Elite League that the regular season is what counts rather than the focus being on the end-of-season play-offs like in America.

And that means two points at home to the Guildford Flames tomorrow and two more in Milton Keynes on Sunday are the target.

"It's time to get into the league," said Riley. "The guys have had three games under their belts now and we're working towards these important games this weekend.

"It sounds like there will be a big crowd coming out to support the boys. It's the first league game, which is a sprint to the finish. We know how important the teams are from the get-go. We want to get off to a good start and put on a show."

The Giants suffered a heartbreaking overtime defeat in their season-opening Challenge Cup game in Dundee last weekend, which Riley missed through injury, but he is back now and is hungry to get up to speed quickly, especially with important points up for grabs.

"For myself, it's time to get conditioned up and I'm ready to get out there," said Riley.

"We have really been working on our pace and getting up and down the ice sheet.

"We want to be a puck possession team, we want to be a fast skating team, we want defencemen jumping into the play. We've been stressing that this week.

"Obviously we still had things to tighten up from the weekend. Adam's been watching the video so we will make the adjustments and improve as we go along."

Keefe is also expected to add the final piece in his jigsaw, forward John Kurtz, to the line-up. The Giants are hoping that his work visa will come through.

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