Walser has plan to keep Belfast Giants fresh for battle
Derrick Walser has promised his Belfast Giants players days off, less practice and time to spend with their families during a hectic Christmas period.
There will, however, be no time for relaxation when it comes to the match schedule that sees the Giants play eight times between now and the end of 2016.
Five of those games come in the next seven nights, starting this evening with an Elite League clash against the Nottingham Panthers at the SSE Arena, followed by a trip to Coventry Blaze tomorrow evening as they try to close the 10-point gap to leaders Cardiff.
"I've been through periods like this before as a player," said Walser.
"We need to keep guys fresh and the days off will keep them loose.
"We'll have short practices and lots of days off - our travel days will be days off.
"When we do practice we'll keep most of it down to around 30 minutes, just to keep the guys rolling.
"I want the players to be able to enjoy Christmas time and I will give them time off, but they are professional too.
"It's a tough schedule, but it's a chance to make up some ground and a lot could happen very quickly.
"It's a long year and we want to take opportunities to close the gap when they come along.
"Spending a lot of time together is a chance for the players to gel more too and if we can get the same level of performance as we did when we beat Sheffield and Manchester last weekend I'll be happy."
Victory tonight could send the Giants into second place in the table, depending on the outcome between the league's top two when the Cardiff Devils host the Sheffield Steelers.
After winning their last three league games, confidence is flowing in the Giants' locker room again, but as far as performances go Walser is content with how things have gone in the first 21 league games.
"We're playing well and overall throughout the season I have been happy with how we've been playing," said Walser.
"I like the way we're going and that we've been finding ways to win in the last few games.
"The complete level is there and I know that we are going to have our ups and downs throughout the season.
"When you get the highs and lows you need to get the ugly goal that gets you back on the right track.
"It's such a tight league, every team can beat everyone else and we have to find a way to beat the better teams like we did against Sheffield. Nottingham put eight goals past Cardiff and a lot of people will be wondering how that happened.
"We have got to figure it out and try to go in there and score against them the next time we play them."
Walser gave Stephen Murphy the nod in goal in Wednesday night's Challenge Cup quarter-final against Manchester Storm after Jackson Whistle played exceptionally well in both games last weekend.
With both players fully fit, it is likely that they will play one game each this weekend and that is expected to continue throughout most of the 11 games within the next three weeks.