DULUTH - Being in the same city as their NHL affiliate paid off for the Gwinnett Gladiators on Monday.
The Atlanta Thrashers assigned goaltender Adam Berkhoel to Gwinnett for a brief stay, just long enough for the second-year pro to play in tonight's game at Augusta.
Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said he expects Berkhoel, who played part of his rookie season in Gwinnett last year, only to remain with the team until Thursday.
But Berkhoel will start today against the Lynx. It will be his first game action since Nov. 19. The 24-year-old has been backing up another former Gladiator goalie, Michael Garnett, in Atlanta and has appeared in eight NHL games this season, posting a 2-4-0 mark. Berkhoel, who earned his first NHL win on Oct. 22 against New Jersey, also has appeared in three American Hockey League games with Chicago this season.
Gwinnett will not have to make any roster moves to accommodate the brief assignment, with room available under the salary cap.
The Gladiators, with Berkhoel in net tonight, can complete a stretch of eight games in 15 days with an unbeaten record. One game in the set was rescheduled due to weather problems in Greenville, S.C.
Gwinnett, which owns the best winning percentage in its division, is 5-0-2 in its last seven games - something that delights Pyle given the callups depleting his lineup.
"These nine games, I was hoping we could go 5-3-2 or something like that," Pyle said. "But now you're 5-0-2 with a chance to win at Augusta. To go these eight unbeaten, that takes huge pressure off right after Christmas."
The Gladiators (13-5-4, 30 points) are second in the South Division standings, one point behind Florida, though the Everblades have played one more game. After today's matchup in Augusta, the Gladiators will have a five-day holiday hiatus before
getting back to things on Dec. 26 in Columbia.
"We feel good about ourselves," forward Brad Schell said after his first professional hat trick helped Gwinnett win on Saturday. "We're unbeaten in seven now, but that's not good enough. We've got to make it eight. We want to enjoy our Christmas break - you don't want to go in with a loss, you want to carry that momentum from Tuesday night into the 26th when we play again."
Next level update
Providence, and its NHL affiliate Boston, have reportedly been very pleased with the play of Pascal Pelletier, who was called up to the AHL from Gwinnett on Friday. Pyle said he expects Pelletier to remain in Providence for a while and Boston may assign one of its contracted forwards to the Gladiators to compensate. The Bruins do not have an official ECHL affiliate.
Pyle also said center Chris Durno, called up earlier in the month to AHL Milwaukee, could be returned to Gwinnett after the holiday break.
On the short side
The Gladiators scored three shorthanded goals Saturday, all in the second period. Schell had two of them and Jeff Campbell picked up the other. Gwinnett now has a league-leading 10 shorthanded goals on the year, surpassing the seven they posted in each of the last two seasons.
Goals all around
Jeff Dwyer recorded his first pro goal in Saturday's 6-3 win over Toledo. All the active players on Gwinnett's roster now have at least one goal. Dwyer appeared in a combined 22 games last season in the AHL and the NHL, registering two assists. This year, Dwyer has a goal and seven assists in 19 games for the Gladiators.