Belfast Telegraph

Forsberg ruled out of Belfast Giants' Champions League double-header

Jesse Forsberg has become the Belfast Giants' newest signing.
Jesse Forsberg has become the Belfast Giants' newest signing.
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Belfast  Giants head coach Adam Keefe has confirmed that defenceman Jesse Forsberg has been ruled out this week’s games at Bili Tygri Liberec and Augsburger Panther.

The 26-year-old Canadian was forced out of the Giants’ debut Champions League win over Liberec last Thursday after a big hit along the boards, which also saw him miss Saturday’s overtime defeat to the Germans.

Now it looks like the issue will keep him sidelined for a while longer, with the blue-liner not fit enough to travel to the Czech Republic for the return leg with Liberec on Thursday.

“Not good,” said head coach Keefe of Forsberg’s prospects. “He won’t play this week.”

That means swing man Mark Garside will return to defence for the two games, likely on the second pairing alongside Kevin Raine, as he played in the game against Augsburger.

Keefe may also consider switching around his middle six for the two games as they continue to look for the right combinations at the start of the season.

While the top line of Curtis Hamilton, Ben Lake and Patryk Wronka look to have found some real chemistry, the second and third lines could see some mixing for this week.

“We’re still trying to figure out line combinations and powerplay combinations exactly. We’ve had some success early on but it’s still a new team, we’re still working out some kinks,” added Keefe.

“We’re feeling good, we’re ready to get on the road and try to qualify. That’s what it comes down to now, we need to get some points on this road trip.

“The first week proves the EIHL is on the rise. We no longer want to be satisfied with one win, we want to try and get as many as possible and qualify.

“We want to focus on the process of what will get us there. If we get that right, and we’ve proven we can do that in the last few weeks, then we will get points. Whether it’s three points or two points in overtime, we just want to get points on the road to bring back home.”

Thursday’s third Group C game at the Home Credit Arena in Liberec (face-off 6.45pm UK time) looks to be a particularly tasty one given the fiery nature of last week’s opener at the SSE Arena.

After captain Matt Pelech laid out a massive hit on Liberec forward Michal Bulir, the Czech side lost their composure, with their skipper Petr Jelinek ejected from the game for a charge late in the second period as the Giants held on to win 5-4.

With Liberec yet to win a point in Group C, they need to pick up some points this week or risk a very early elimination from a competition they have history of performing well in.

Keefe is prepared for another brutal game, however, but is confident that his side will rise to the challenge of the fired-up Czechs.

“All our focus is on Liberec. We know it will be a good game, a feisty one, based on last week’s game. Special teams will probably be big so we’ll be prepared and ready for them,” added the head coach.

“I expect the guys to show up ready to battle, ready to compete. That’s the kind of group we’ve built and I have no doubts they will.”

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