Belfast Giants will tough it out in the title race
Doug Christiansen is ready to shake up the Elite League by using Mike Hoffman’s power in his Belfast Giants forward line.
Coach Christiansen — in similar style to every football manager in Europe — is working to bring a new face onto the Giants line-up before the league’s signing deadline on Monday night.
And if that happens then moving tough guy Hoffman into a position on the wing will strike fear into every opposing defenceman as the Giants get ready to up their game in the battle for the league title.
While 30-year-old Hoffman was signed as the man to protect his team-mates, he has largely stayed out of fights this season, although when he was given compassionate leave over Christmas it was clear that other teams were trying to take advantage of the loss of his physical presence on the Giants line-up.
Christiansen is now planning to use 6ft 5 Hoffman’s considerable size to its full effect.
“We are still actively looking to bring in a player before the 31st,” said Christiansen.
“If we get someone it will probably be a defenceman. With Mike Hoffman’s ability to play as a forward we can free him up to do that.
“He is great player. He skates well, he has very good hands and he’s popular in the locker room too.
“It’s been hard for Mike to react to things as a defenceman. He’s had to wait for contact on him, but
when players from other teams have been crossing the line — like John Schwarz of Newcastle last weekend — he’s stepped in and calmed them down.”
Braehead Clan may get off lightly when they clash with the Giants in a home-and-away double-header this weekend as with Tim Cook still absent Hoffman will be required to fulfil defensive duties.
The Clan shocked the Giants the last time they were in Belfast, winning 4-2 at the Odyssey Arena on Boxing Day.
In this their first season in the league Braehead have made their mark and Glasgow-born Giants captain Colin Shields will head to his home city determined not to be on the losing side.
Christiansen knows what to expect from the Clan this time with every point vital as the Giants trail Elite League leaders Cardiff by five points.
“This is a massive weekend for us and Braehead won’t sneak up on us this time,” he said.
“We know about them and we’ll be confident because we won in their building the last time, the night after they beat us in Belfast.
“I know that they are strong. They have won seven of their last 10 games and in that stretch they beat us, Nottingham and Coventry.
“We have to limit their chances and make the most of ours.”
Chances haven’t been in short supply for the Giants in recent games. Continually they have been out-shooting teams by some distance — 46 to 16 in a defeat to Sheffield last Saturday and an amazing 61 to 8 24 hours later while beating the Newcastle Vipers in Belfast.
Those statistics haven’t always been reflected in goals though, with just 35 goals scored in the ten games since Christmas.
“We had 46 shots against Sheffield, but Ben Simon was the happier coach,” said Christiansen.
“I have told the players that it’s not about how many shots we have, how many chances we create or how much of the play we have in the opposition zone, it’s all about whether we win or lose the game.
“We have been doing some good things and our powerplay is improving too which is pleasing.
“Last weekend we scored five goals on powerplays. I don’t know if we scored five powerplay goals in December.
“It’s all about outworking the opposition and after the work that we’ve done hopefully we are getting things right.”