Giants on right road despite setbacks: Rutherford
Despite losing back-to-back games in the Elite League for the first time since September 22, Belfast Giants forward David Rutherford is focusing on the bigger picture.
The Giants still lead the league by a point following their defeats by the Sheffield Steelers and the Dundee Stars, largely in part to an incredible 12 wins from 15 away matches in the league, with a Challenge Cup quarter-final win thrown in there too.
This weekend, that road trip comes to an end when they welcome the Cardiff Devils to the SSE Arena tomorrow, but before that they travel to the Guildford Flames tonight (face-off 6pm) for the last of their 16 consecutive league games on the road.
And Rutherford, who leads Belfast this season with 21 assists in 24 games, believes they can take a lot of confidence from their road form regardless of recent results.
"If you'd said we'd be where we are at the end of this long road trip at the start of the season then everyone would be pretty happy," admits the Canadian winger.
"But we don't want to just be satisfied, we're only one third of the way through the season and it's a grind. We've got to be consistent, that's the key.
"It's a marathon here, we've got to keep playing the right way and keep playing well for our goaltenders too, Besko's been the backbone of our team this year and we need that. We've been fortunate to have great team support, and guys just want to keep going.
"It's fun when you're winning, things are more enjoyable when you're winning, so we'll try to get back to it and get on another winning streak."
This season, Rutherford has formed a strong partnership with captain Blair Riley and Darcy Murphy in a top line that has been firing on all cylinders.
The trio are the Giants' top three point scorers this season, combining for 91 in the league, and Rutherford is full of praise for his skilled line partners.
"This is the third year I've played with Blair, he works his tail off and is one of the most under-rated players in the league, when he's on form it makes the game so much easier for me," praises Rutherford.
"Murph is just a pure scorer - you give him the puck, he's fast, he makes plays, he opens up. We all feed off each other, they're great players to play with and they make the game easier for me."
This week will be a huge challenge, with the Flames so strong at the Spectrum and the Devils, the defending league champions, finding a bit of form recently after a tough stretch.
However, it's an opportunity for the Giants to get back on that winning run, as well as putting some distance between themselves and the chasing pack again.
"Guildford, can't say enough about them, they're a great team. I know (John) Dunbar and (Jesse) Craige over there, those guys fly around like little waterbugs, so you have to be ready to go and you have to be rested because they're a fast team," says Rutherford.
"I'm never going to underestimate Cardiff.
"They're on a tough run and yet they're only two points out of first place, so I'd hate to see them at a good time!
"It's a grind, they've played a lot of hockey and they've been good for two or three years now, and they're still good.
"They're probably laughing seeing people think they're out of things, so I'm not going to take them for granted and I don't think anyone in our dressing room is going to either."