Belfast Telegraph

Stephen Murphy can make Giant contribution in return

By Stuart McKinley

Stephen Murphy is expected to return to the Belfast Giants line-up tonight, even though coach Steve Thornton isn't sure if the timing is right.

The Scottish goaltender has been out of action for five months and with the Play-offs looming in three weeks his comeback could be significant.

Striking the right balance of making sure that he is in the right shape to return and having his key man up to game speed for the quarter-finals at the end of this month is a tough decision for Thornton.

And while a final decision won't be made until the team arrives in Sheffield for the battle with the Steelers, the signs are pointing towards Murphy getting the nod ahead of Carsen Chubak.

"Stephen Murphy is the backbone of our team and I have never tried to hide that," commented Thornton.

"He is someone who steals games for us and a lot of times when we've won games by a single goal it's been because of the saves he's made.

"For the last two or three weeks we have been optimistic at the start of the week that he would be ready, but when it's come to Friday the timing hasn't been right.

"What we've got to work out is when is the timing right? We want him in the best possible shape for the Play-offs. Does that mean another week of rest is best for him?

"He also needs to be game-sharp for the Play-offs so we have to give him games and we probably won't know 100 per cent if the timing is right until he gets out there."

As has been the case throughout the season for the Giants, who are now focusing on those Play-offs with the retention of the Elite League title out of reach, while one player returns two more are missing.

Both Kevin Saurette and Mike Kompon will miss the trip to Sheffield, but Mark McCutcheon - whose entire season has been dogged by injury - will play.

Although the Giants have lost nine of their last 11 games, Thornton is feeling positive after last weekend's performances, which saw his team beat the Hull Stingrays 3-2 before losing by the same scoreline against the Cardiff Devils.

"It was a great team effort in Cardiff, we did the little things well and the good thing is that we've got more to give," said Thornton.

"I want to win the season series against Sheffield. Winning the game would do that and it would lift our confidence at what is an important time of the season as well."

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