Belfast Giants set for crunch weekend
THE Belfast Giants enter a crucial phase of the season this weekend with two tough encounters against Coventry Blaze tonight and Elite League champions the Cardiff Devils tomorrow, signalling the start of a 10-game stint on the road.
Head coach Adam Keefe admits that the series could make or break his team's chances of lifting the title but at least the Giants go into the stretch in decent form.
They performed admirably in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Nottingham Panthers last week and then defeated leaders Manchester Storm 9-3.
The Giants scored four times in the opening six minutes against the Storm at the SSE Arena last Sunday night and Keefe will be hoping for a similar start in the weekend double-header.
"It's something we've talked about, getting big starts and it was great; it's tough for opponents to dig themselves out of a three or four-goal deficit." said Keefe.
"We made it clear in the changing-room before the Manchester game that, with a 10-game road trip coming up, we needed to leave our fans with something to cheer about.
"This long trip is going to either set us up for success after Christmas or leave us having to dig ourselves out of a big hole.
"We've something like 25 out of our next 31 games at home after Christmas so we want to get through these games alright and the players recognise that.
"A road game to me is no different, if you can go out there and play the right way, we can get results.
"If we do that for all of the 10 games, we'll be alright but we're going to approach it game by game and in segments and try to come out with the best possible outcome."
Keefe has dipped into the transfer market to re-sign forward David Rutherford, who has been lured out of retirement.
In the 60 games played for Belfast since joining from Edinburgh in January 2016, he posted 22 goals and 35 assists.
The 30-year-old played in Colin Shields' testimonial on Tuesday night and is expected to come straight into the squad for the weekend games.
"When the opportunity came up to bring David back to Belfast, the decision was pretty simple; he has already won championships in his career and he will play a huge part down the stretch this season." Keefe explained.
"He has put up good numbers in Belfast over the last two years and and I know our fans will love seeing him in a Giants' jersey once again.”
"Some of the guys maybe prematurely decided to hang up their skates but sometimes that drive never leaves you and David's a guy that wants to come back and contribute."