Belfast Giants coach Doug Christiansen says all the pressure is on the Nottingham Panthers ahead of the clash between the top two sides in the Elite League at the National Ice Centre on Saturday night.
The Giants were able to cut the Panthers lead at the top of the standings to four points with a 3-0 win over Fife Flyers on Wednesday but know that if they are to have a realistic shot at retaining their title they really need to win.
The last time the two sides met in Nottingham last month the Giants were on the wrong end of a 6-1 beating.
“We have a much different team now than when we lost 6-1.
“Obviously we’ll be missing Andrew Fournier, Sam Roberts and Stephen Murphy because of injuries but Kevin Saurette, Colin Shields and Garrett Zemlak weren’t with us so we’re a very different team and its just going to come to one night and that’s the beauty of it,” explained Christiansen.
“What our record is there is irrelevant, for us its about going there and doing the little things right and making sure we don’t turn the puck over.
“We want to play behind their defencemen and that our possession in the offensive zone is fantastic and that we’re scoring dirty goals and driving the net and if we do that there’s nothing to stop us coming out with the right result.”
Nottingham have also made some personnel changes and having not won a league title in any of its guises since 1956 the current team are playing with history weighing in their shoulders.
Christiansen added, “The truth is all of the pressure is on the Nottingham Panthers.
“Yes, we’re the defending champions but we’ve lost some games recently and everyone is talking about how our powerplay has struggled or how we aren’t playing as well as we were.
“The truth is this is Nottingham’s title to lose and this is a tremendous opportunity for us to throw a monkey wrench into that wheel and try and slow them down.
“It’s a huge weekend but that’s why players sign in Belfast and in Nottingham. We could wake up on Monday in a great spot or not where we want to be.
“Everyone is talking about this being the year of the Panther, well we’re about to find out.”