The return of Mike Hoffman will boost the Belfast Giants tonight as they aim to turn what has so far been a bad week into a good one.
And coach Doug Christiansen is expecting Hoffman’s physical presence to have a big impact on his team for this evening’s home clash with the Newcastle Vipers, as they look to respond after two post-Christmas defeats.
The home reverses at the hands of Braehead Clan on Sunday and 48 hours later against the Cardiff Devils were split by an away win against the Clan, but it was Tuesday’s defeat to the Devils that had Christiansen losing sleep.
“I went straight home after the Cardiff game and watched the game over again,” said Christiansen.
“We can make all the excuses we like about injuries and other things, but there were goals that were down to things that weren’t injury related. They were down to decision making.
“Three of them came from turnovers in the neutral zone and you can’t afford to give a team like Cardiff opportunities like that.
“I won’t try to hide anything, Cardiff were much better than us, but it’s only two points that we’ve lost, although they deserved more than that for their performance.”
Hoffman flew back into Belfast yesterday morning after staying at home with his family in north-America for Christmas with the full blessing of coach Doug Christiansen following the recent death of his mother.
He has proved to be much more than a tough guy, with a tally of seven goals and 11 assists to his name and there is no doubting that his absence has been felt.
“We’re not an over physical team, but there are certain things that we should be better at,” said Christiansen.
“For that reason we are struggling to score goals and the knock-on effect of that is obviously that it becomes more difficult to win games.
“Having Mike Hoffman back will be a big help to the team. There is no doubt that he has been missed.
“We’ve been without him for three weeks, but everyone understood that he needed to be at home with his family and we allowed him to stay there until he felt the time was right to come back.”
The Giants’ lead at the top of the Elite League table is still intact, but Cardiff and Nottingham both have four games in hand in which they can overturn the current three-point advantage.
A win for Newcastle tonight would catapult them into the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup along with the Giants, which makes it a key game all-round.