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Belfast Giants ready for Nottingham Panthers play-off challenge

By Adam McKendry

With the conclusion of the Elite League regular season, the play-off lineup has been set and it'll be a repeat of the Challenge Cup semi-finals for the Belfast Giants as they take on the Nottingham Panthers.

The first leg will be at the SSE Arena this Friday at 7pm, with the second leg at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham on Sunday also at 7pm.

It's not new territory for either side - the two legged tie will mark the 11th and 12th times they've met this season already, with the Giants holding a narrow advantage having won six of the ten games they've played so far.

Crucially, they won that semi-final clash after a stunning performance on the road, meaning they'll come into this game confident they can repeat the feat albeit with the order of the games reversing this time around.

In many ways it's a favourable draw for the Giants after their 8-5 win over Dundee on Sunday saw them finish fourth in the table, and head coach Adam Keefe and top scorer Sebastien Sylvestre are both confident they can come out on the right side of the result again.

"We've got a short week to prepare for the play-offs," said Keefe. "You have to go through the best to win so we may as well start with a top side like Nottingham.

"We've seen them our fair share already this season so both teams will be familiar with each other and I expect nothing but some great hockey games. If we don't better their pace we could be in for two long games so every man has to show up and be the best version of themselves.

"We'll have to be at our best - it doesn't matter who you play in the quarter-finals, they're all good teams and they're all hungry for the play-offs. If we're not, we'll lose. But we're hungry and I'm very confident we'll do the job."

Canadian forward Sylvestre, who scored a hat-trick in the win over the Stars, added: "We had great success against (Nottingham), but they're still a really good team so we'll have to prepare ourselves this week during practice and come out strong next weekend.

"We play well against the good teams so it's good we're facing Nottingham. We'll be ready for them."

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