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Belfast Giants coach Steve Thornton sees a silver lining

By Stuart McKinley

Steve Thornton is in no doubt that his Belfast Giants team can pull off a shock by winning the Play-off title.

After a disappointing season, when their challenge to retain the Elite League title faded in mid-February, there is still a chance to end on a high.

Although the Giants are destined to finish fifth in the league - the first time since 2011 they have been outside the top two - and have only won three of their last 15 games, Thornton is confident that his players can raise their game ahead of a two-legged quarter-final in two weeks' time, which is likely to be against the Nottingham Panthers.

"It's been tough to win, but we've been playing well in most of our games and I think that we can win the Play-offs," said Thornton, ahead of tonight's clash with Coventry Blaze at the Odyssey Arena.

"I can see that the guys are getting focused on the Play-offs and the motivation is there - if you can't get motivated at this time of year there's no point in playing."

Thornton will use this weekend's games, with a trip to the Fife Flyers tomorrow to follow the battle with the Blaze, as an opportunity to fine-tune his line-up ahead of the Play-offs.

He has been trying to find the right mix in attack for most of the season, with injuries to key players not helping the situation.

Goaltender Stephen Murphy and forward Kevin Saurette - who have already missed large chunks of the season - are both expected to sit out this weekend with the Play-off campaign in mind and that will again leave Thornton needing to tweak things.

"We need to get some chemistry on the lines. We only scored one goal five-on-five in the two games against Nottingham last weekend and that's not good enough," said Thornton.

"When I look at the teams above us, their top lines are dominant and that's what has got them there.

"Craig Peacock and Ray Sawada have worked well together, but I have changed the centre on that line. They both put a lot of effort into their game and have scored goals.

"I have put another line back together, which worked at the start of the season, and we have to see how they go.

"There's another line who are just new together, but they have to be given time together if it is going to work.

"For a lot of the guys they may not be back in Belfast next season, some may not play again, so we have to try to make it memorable for them and help them to go out on a high."

The league title isn't expected to be decided until Sunday night.

The Sheffield Steelers and Cardiff Devils are locked together on 70 points with two games to go.

They play each other tomorrow night, but before that the Steelers face a derby clash with the Nottingham Panthers this evening.

With the potential for points to be dropped, Braehead Clan, who are a point behind, still have a chance to win the league as they will be expected to beat both the Hull Stingrays and Fife Flyers.

Belfast Telegraph


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