Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Confident Belfast Giants coach delivers strong warning

Belfast Giants’ Mark Garside is finding his feet after his injury problems

Doug Christiansen last night claimed that his Belfast Giants team is getting stronger.

And the timing of the improvement couldn’t be better as tonight sees the first of a three-game head-to-head battle with the Nottingham Panthers.

The Giants are currently top of the table and their opponents just seven points behind with four games in hand and the three games in 10 days could prove to be pivotal in the Elite League title race.

The intensity in the battle for the crown will not decrease at all, with the Sheffield Steelers following on the fixture list for Christiansen’s men, which is why he is glad that the post-Christmas losing streak was brought to an end with Sunday’s 2-0 victory over the Hull Stingrays.

“I think the team is improving and I have seen in a couple of recent games and in our practices that guys are getting better,” said Christiansen.

“We have players who have been out, like Brandon Benedict and Mark Garside, who have taken a little bit of time to get back into things and their form is really returning.

“Benedict has been very strong in practice this week and is looking more like the player he was before he got injured.

“Mark Garside scored last weekend and is showing his ability, which is great for him and great for the team.

“We are moving from a position where we had little or no depth at all to getting to a stage where our depth is our strongest asset — but we aren’t at that stage yet.”

Christiansen has set the highest possible target for his team as he wants three wins over the Panthers and he has seen enough in the Giants this season that tells him that they are capable of taking maximum points from the three game series.

“If either team goes three-and-zero it will be a big step towards where they want to go,” said Christiansen. That’s what we’ll be trying to do. The worst we want is to win two and lose one and at least that would mean we stay on pace.

“We have been very good defensively all season and while there have been a couple of obvious mistakes in there, by and large our defence is what we’ve been known for. That includes our defencemen and our goaltender, who have been huge.

“These games could come down to Nottingham’s offence against our team defence, but they are the kind of team that we will get scoring chances against and it is up to us to capitalise on those when they come our way.”

Tonight’s game will be shown live on Sky Sports and Christiansen will send his men out in the knowledge that a large support will be cheering his team on from their armchairs and in Rockies bar at the Odyssey.

“It’ll be great for the fans who have to follow our away games either via on-line updates, text updates or a very small screen on their computers to be able to see the game properly and I hope that we give them a night that they really enjoy,” he said.

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