Fit and firing, Giants d-man Forsberg happy after making return from injury
Among the various reasons why Adam Keefe would have been delighted with the 7-2 win over the Fife Flyers last night, seeing No.29 back on the ice would have undoubtedly been one of them.
It was a welcome return to the roster for Jesse Forsberg, who had missed the previous four weeks having shipped a nasty hit from Bili Tygri Liberec forward Michal Bulir in their opening game of the season in the Champions League.
While the Giants had been covered in his absence, with swing-man Mark Garside dropping back on defense as cover, losing Forsberg so early in the season was a blow to head coach Keefe's plans, so watching the d-man back in action would have been pleasing.
The 26-year-old acquitted himself well, too. Showing no ill-effects of that Bulir hit, he was deployed on both the powerplay and penalty kill units - albeit with limited ice time - and ended the game with a -1 rating.
"Felt good," was Forsberg's assessment of his own performance, which saw him paired with Matt Pelech on the back end.
"Obviously a little rusty not playing for a month, getting back into game shape, but I felt fine and felt like I had a few chances to put the puck in the net.
"Keep going, get better every day."
The plan had been to restrict Forsberg to minutes where he would ideally not be relied upon in key situations, in order to protect him in his first game back, but when the Canadian reported back at the first intermission, that plan went out the window.
"I told myself I was going to keep it simple but after a few shifts I felt good so I just went back to doing what I do!" laughed Forsberg. "I started playing my game there in the second period and felt good.
"No-one knew what my conditioning would be at, but I was feeling good so they gave me a few more opportunities. With the score the way it was, it was easy to put me out there a few more times and that was good."
Obviously the injury sustained by Forsberg was far from ideal, particularly when all a player wants to do is impress early after joining a new team. Even more so when it's your first club in Europe.
Not only that, but it meant Forsberg was ruled out of three of the Giants' first four CHL games, something which was a big draw for players making the move to the SSE Arena.
But the club stuck by Forsberg during his rehab, bringing him along on the road trip to Liberec and Augsburg despite him not being fit to play and keeping him involved in team activities.
"(The injury) sucked. The coaching staff was good enough to bring me on the trip to Europe and be a part of everything," reveals Forsberg.
"It was easy with this group of guys to stay a part of things, all I've got to do is go out there and do what I can do. Keep playing the way I play."
Now the challenge for Forsberg to work his way back into the line-up. Due to the make-up of the roster, the Giants have to sit one import per game when everyone is healthy, and with the defense performing the way it has, there's little need to make a change.
Having conceded two or less goals in four of their opening five domestic games, the defensive corps have been one of the undoubted strengths of this Belfast roster early in the season, and it's that group that Forsberg has to break back into.
That being said, the 26-year-old is a quality operator, as he proved in four years with the University of Saskatchewan, and although he hasn't had a chance to prove it yet in Belfast, he's hoping that will come soon.
"First game is a little bit of a grace period, I made a couple of mistakes out there because of the rust, but from now on I'm going to have to be at my best for this team," insists Forsberg.
"We've got some really good defensemen. It's really easy to slot in and learn off them."
Belfast are likely to start Shane Owen in their second game of their home-away double-header against the Flyers at the Fife Ice Arena tonight (6.30pm), with Kevin Raine the only doubt after taking a knock in yesterday's win at the SSE Arena.
Belfast Telegraph Digital