Ice Hockey: Consistency is key as Edinburgh Capitals face top two

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PLAYER-COACH Richard Hartmann believes consistency is the key for his struggling Edinburgh Capitals ahead of a tough weekend of ice hockey action, facing off against the Elite League’s top two clubs on consecutive nights.

Tomorrow sees the Caps take a trip over the Irish Sea for a crack at top-of-the-table Belfast Giants, before returning home to Murrayfield on Sunday to welcome second placed Sheffield Steelers (face off 6pm).

Hartmann said: “We have a tough two games ahead of us but we’ve shown before that if we play our system we can beat any team.

“Consistency is our problem, we need to be at 100 per cent for every game but we can’t seem to manage that, we win one game and then lose the next three.”

Hartmann refused to blame fatigue for his short-benched team’s poor performance last time out, a 3-1 loss against Hull Stingrays at Murrayfield, which saw an encouraging run of home form – that had seen victories over Cardiff Devils and Braehead Clan – come to an end.

As a result Capitals sit dead last in the ten-strong league with only four wins and a draw from 17 games but Hartmann said: “When we’re scoring goals it all looks so easy, but when the chances are missed everything looks so different. We didn’t lose on Sunday because we were tired, we lost because we didn’t take our chances.

“It’s been a big problem for us all season, it’s something we are always working on in training – I just hope we start putting the puck in the net.”

There have been no such problems for Edinburgh’s weekend opponents, who boast two of the finest squads in the Elite League, with Sheffield’s Philadelphia Flyers star Tom Sestito, who signed a contract until the end of the current NHL lockout, expected to make the trip to the Capital.

Both Belfast, bossed by ex-Capitals coach Doug Christiansen, and Edinburgh have injury problems. Caps will be minus forward Jade Portwood (groin strain) and blue-liner Michal Benadik (broken finger) whilst Belfast will be without the influential Canadian pairing of Scott Champagne and Robby Sandrock. Even with home advantage where Giants have never lost to the Capitals, Christiansen refuses to take his former team lightly and said: “They’re different from other teams in the league in that they play a European style of hockey. The Capitals are a much improved team from last season and we will need to be wary.”

Meanwhile, Caps fans were buoyed this week with the signing of versatile Canadian college star Curtis Leinweber, the 24-year old set to make his debut tomorrow night, but Hartmann still believes his side are short of that bit of quality needed to realistically mount a winning run and challenge for an end of season place.

He said: “I still want to bring in another import, we just need a few more days and we’ll be able to complete the paperwork. I’m unhappy with what’s been happening with the team, we need to start winning games, and to help do that we need another quality player.”

Both Hartmann and team owner Scott Neil refused to name the player in question for fear of him being snapped up by another club, but did reveal their target is a free scoring Canadian defenceman with previous European experience.

Hartmann continued: “Scott and I are both doing our upmost to improve the team.”