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Giants have festive spirit to step up quest for silverware: Vandermeer

By Stuart McKinley

Jim Vandermeer is relishing a pre-Christmas run for the Belfast Giants that will have the players busier than Santa and his elves as they fight for silverware on two fronts.

Eight games in the next fortnight and 11 between now and the end of the year could, depending on results, define the season for the Giants as they fight it out with the Cardiff Devils and tonight's opponents the Sheffield Steelers at the top of the tree in the battle for the Elite League title.

After that comes a two-legged Challenge Cup quarter-final against Manchester Storm over the next couple of weeks - with the Giants also facing Storm in a league game tomorrow.

Vandermeer is putting a positive spin on the packed schedule and with matches coming thick and fast, if the Giants can get on a winning run things could really start to snowball.

And the mindset isn't one of concern over the amount of action crammed into a short space of time - in contrast Vandermeer sees it as an opportunity to get right back into the title race.

"I think sometimes it's almost easier when you're playing a lot of games," said Vandermeer.

"You are always playing games, so you are always in game mode. You don't have that time to over-think things during the week when you're practising.

"I'd actually prefer to play a bunch of games in a row rather than practicing four or five days. I think guys can get into a rhythm, get in a groove and hopefully that's what happens."

The Giants are back on home ice this evening after playing seven successive games on the road.

The six points collected in the six Elite League matches isn't a bad return, but with nine of the next 12 at the SSE Arena that run represents a great chance to eat into the Devils' 12-point advantage - although the Giants do have two games in hand.

It is just three weeks ago that the Giants lost 5-1 in Sheffield for the second time this season, but Vandermeer claims those results didn't reflect the performances.

"The couple of times we've played them I think we've played really well," said the 36-year-old, who has over 400 NHL games behind him.

"We just had a couple of lapses about five or six minutes long and it seemed like they scored on every chance they got during those lapses.

"If we just tighten up and keep playing hard I think we'll give ourselves the best chance."

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