Giants look to dampen Blaze's title aspirations
The Belfast Giants will aim to put a severe dent in the title hopes of Coventry Blaze this weekend.
The Elite League's top two sides meet in back-to-back games in Belfast and the midlands over the next two nights.
The Odyssey Arena and Coventry's SkyDome won't be short of atmosphere in either night and depending on the outcome where the Monteith Bowl is heading at the end of the season could be much clearer by tomorrow night.
Tonight's game in Belfast will only be the appetiser, with a second course 24 hours later when the teams clash again.
Coventry took the Grand Slam two seasons ago, with the Giants wrestling the league title from their grasp last season and the two teams are now becoming involved in something of a two-horse race for this season's Championship.
At present the Giants lead the table by seven points, but have played four games more than Coventry. If Ed Courtenay's side win both this weekend's battles that will become 11 and even with games in hand that is a lot to claw back.
Courtenay, however, knows that things could also turn the other way and his team could be left with just a three point cushion over a team that it took the Giants 10 attempts to beat when the Elite League was first founded.
"These two games are as big for us as they are for Coventry," said Courtenay.
"Yes, we could build up a healthy lead at the top of the standings, but I'm not thinking about that.
"We have to concentrate on one game at a time and try to beat a very good hockey team. If we do that then we will think about how we stand afterwards.
"Coventry are as capable of winning the two games as we are.
"I am confident in the performance and commitment of may players, but we have to show up and play well.
"On Monday morning things will be clearer and we'll have a better idea of how things stand for us in terms of trying to win the league again."
There is no love lost between the teams after previous events.
Last season, after Theo Fleury was abused by fans, Courtenay described Coventry as: 'the worst place I have played in as far as fans go in all my time in professional ice hockey,' and he can expect a hot reception again tomorrow night from the home fans.