Kevin Westgarth gears up for Belfast Giants debut against Cardiff

Former NHL star Kevin Westgarth is gearing up for his Belfast Giants debut against Cardiff on Saturday.

Stanley Cup winner Kevin Westgarth says he is "raring to go" as he prepares to make his Belfast Giants debut against Cardiff Devils at the Odyssey Arena on Saturday night.

Westgarth, who helped the LA Kings win the NHL title two years ago, had his first Giants training session at Dundonald on Wednesday.

"It's nice to be back on the ice after a long travel day," said Westgrath, 30.

"I'm looking forward to be involved against Cardiff on Saturday night."

Canadian native Westgarth is an Irish passport holder and says that a playing stint in Belfast has always been on his agenda.

"It was something I wanted to do to come over here and play," Westgarth told BBC Sport Northern Ireland.

Westgarth arrival delights Giants coach

The Ontario man says he became aware of the existence of the Giants during his time at Princeton University when one of his fellow students wrote a thesis about the emergence of the Belfast ice hockey team.

The opportunity to come to Belfast possibly arose slightly earlier that he had hoped after he was released by NHL outfit Calgary Flames in April.

Westgarth then attended an Edmonton Oilers training camp but was not offered a contract at the end of that stint.

"The free agency didn't go exactly the way I was hoping. I think the NHL is starting to change a little to go away from the bigger fighters.

"I was talking to a number of teams and this opportunity came up. It's a great thing to be able to come over here and play some good hockey."

Westgarth's grandfather came from Galway and the forward says he is keen to sample as "much of the Irish culture as I can".

The Princeton graduate will not be the first Stanley Cup winner to play for the Giants as NHL great Theo Fleury played for the club in the 2005/06 when he helped them win the Elite League title.

"I might be about a foot taller than him but I think he's got me on speed and skill," joked Westgarth on Wednesday.

"But I'm certainly looking forward to picking up some points here."