Devilish test for Belfast Giants
Steve Thornton won’t allow his Belfast Giants players to take their focus off the job in hand tonight as they try to keep their Elite League title hopes alive.
With a huge clash against league leaders Sheffield tomorrow night, there may be a fear that minds will wander towards that game.
Thornton is adamant that won’t be the case and insists that the concentration must be on this evening’s meeting with the Cardiff Devils, because anything less than victory will render the trip to Sheffield meaningless.
The Steelers look down on the Giants, ten points better off with two games more played.
Even if Thornton’s men win their two games in hand that they have on Sheffield, the gap still renders tomorrow’s game a must-win clash.
“We can’t let anything slip,” said Thornton.
“We have a tough schedule, but no matter when we play or who ices for us, there is still an expectation to win.
“There is no point in guys thinking about Sunday’s game and taking their eye off what we have to do in Cardiff on Saturday night.
“If we drop points in Cardiff then Sunday night won’t matter because our hopes of winning the league will take a big hit.
“We have to win in Cardiff and then look to do the same thing on Sunday night in Sheffield.”
The Giants will have to win those games without FOUR of their forwards available,which will serve to seriously blunt Thornton’s attack.
Bobby Robins joined Paul Deniset on the injury list last weekend and he has now been joined by Paul Sample, while Andrew Martin is out once again.
He missed over a month of action since the week before Christmas and scored five points in the last three games before aggravating a previous injury against Coventry in Wednesday night’s Challenge Cup semi-final second-leg. A problem that will rule him out for at least a couple of weeks.
Sample’s injury isn’t as bad and he is expected to be back by next weekend, but that still leaves the team short this weekend.
“Andrew Martin probably needs some rest and a full summer of rehab to get himself back fully, but it’s not an injury that’s going to affect him long-term,” said Thornton.
“We have had injuries all season and we haven’t used it as an excuse up until now and I am not going to start using the situation as an excuse now.
“It’s just down to us now to go about our play in a different way.
“We have won games this season by using our speed and skill and playing at a high tempo.
“When you are playing with just two lines you can’t really do that so we have to change things.
“We have to play on the breakaway a little bit more. We aren’t going to dominate teams and keep the puck away from them for long periods, so we might have to drop back, take some pressure and as long as we restrict teams to shots from out wide then we can cope with that.”
Sheffield goaltender Jody Lehman has frustrated the Giants throughout this season — particularly at the Odyssey.
A lot will depend on how he performs and only three times this season have Sheffield lost a league game inside 60 minutes.