DULUTH - The Gwinnett Gladiators begin a set of four games in five days today and do it without their captain.
Mike Vigilante remains on injured reserve with lingering symptoms from a concussion he sustained just over a month ago. Vigilante came back for Gwinnett's Jan. 5 hockey meeting with Mississippi after missing nine games. He also played part of last Friday's game, but had to leave when he started experiencing dizziness and tunnel vision.
With an extra forward on the roster - rookie Myles Stoesz was a healthy scratch for last Friday's game - head coach Jeff Pyle can spare Vigilante right now.
"If guys aren't healthy, we don't want to take a chance," Pyle said. "I'd rather him take another week or two and just get healthy. Right now, it's not dire straights.
"I just think I've got to do a little bit better job of making guys understand and we've got to stop giving games away."
Pyle was especially displeased with the team after their last game, a 3-2 loss to Pensacola last Saturday. The Gladiators fell to 22-9-3 (47 points) and have since been passed by South Carolina for second place in the ECHL's South Division. South Carolina (48 points) has played three more games than Gwinnett and the two teams go head-to-head in Charleston, S.C., on Friday. But first is a trip to Charlotte.
"It sets the tone for the whole weekend," Pyle said. "If we come out flying, have a good game, even if you lose, as long as you're playing well, it's a positive start.
"I think right now, on the road, with us throwing some games away at home, we have to get one or two back on the road."
After traveling to Charlotte today and South Carolina on Friday, the Gladiators return to the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Saturday. Mississippi, which won 1-0 in Gwinnett on the back of goaltender Ryan Munce two weeks ago, is back again.
The Gladiators are expecting their 1 millionth fan to walk through the doors on Saturday and are going all-out in honor of the occasion. All fans in attendance can register to win some top-notch prizes, including a trip to Las Vegas.
The Gladiators wrap up this stretch of games with a special Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee on Monday. Puck drop is set for 12:35 p.m.
It's a lot of hockey in a short period of time.
"All I want us to do is work hard at going to the net," Pyle said. "We've got to be more aggressive. We miss too many opportunities to take control of games. I think if we're a little hungrier around the net, if we play a little smarter, we're fine."
Gwinnett has been pretty average in its last 10 games - 4-4-1-1 in fact. The Gladiators have a two-point lead on Augusta and Florida, who are tied for fourth. They are nine points ahead of sixth-place Columbia.
"We're not playing terrible, we're not playing good, we're just playing," Pyle said. "Sometimes that's not enough. We've had a chance to win in all the games, we're just not getting it done as a team.
"We just don't take the puck to the net like we want to score. I just hate that attitude."
SideBar: Gladiators at Checkers
When: Today, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Charlotte, N.C.