Keefe happy for Euro distraction

Belfast coach Adam Keefe is looking forward to pitting his wits against Lulea (PHOTO: Scott Wiggins)

Belfast Giants coach Adam Keefe is happy to put domestic affairs to one side as his side return to the European arena for the return of the Champions Hockey League.

The Elite League champions are at home to Swedish side Lulea in the first of a double header against the SHL cracks as they look to get themselves into the knockout stages.

And Keefe says it’s an opportunity for his players to step up in such a big game as Giants will line up without captain Matt Pelech, who is suspended.

“Obviously we are one less guy in the lineup which gives more ice time for certain guys in certain areas,” he said.

“But this is an opportunity for guys to step up. Being a Champions League game – this is a great opportunity for our players.

“This gives us a little bit of a break from the league after a tough defeat to Dundee and where we are sitting with the Challenge Cup. We can turn that off for now and focus completely on Lulea.”

Belfast captain Matt Pelech will miss Tuesday’s CHL game due to suspension (PHOTO: William Cherry/Press Eye)

Giants come in on the back of a 4-3 loss to Dundee Stars, but the Swedes themselves haven’t been in great form, winning four and losing four in their last eight games.

The 2015 winners lead Group C with eight points, level with Augsburger Panther, but ahead on goal difference and a regulation time win for Giants would bring them to within a point going into the last game.

Keefe however is under no illusion of the task that awaits him as he looks to secure a famous win and give them a fighting chance of qualifying.

He added: “We spoke at the beginning of our season that we would need to be at our best to compete with these teams in the Champions League. 

“Lulea are the best team in our group and probably the fastest too. We need to be defensively tight against them and we will have to take our chances.”

“We believe we can compete with them. We will need to be ready to go and be at our best against them.

“Right now we are just taking it one period at a time and we want to be solid in the opening 20 minutes and play tight on them. 

“If we do that, i’m confident we will be in this game and then it is about us taking advantage of our looks and putting the puck in the back of the net.”

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