On Monday after practice, Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said he was planning to keep his lines the same for tonight's game against Augusta.
That means leaving Ryan Mahrle, usually a defenseman, at center. Mahrle scored a power-play goal in Saturday's season-opening win over Mississippi, which backs up something Pyle talked about during the offseason.
When Mahrle's re-signing was announced in July, Pyle said he would be giving the Michigan native a bigger role, including more time on the power play.
Pyle said Mahrle is the "ultimate team guy" and the defensive equivalent of former Gladiator and ECHL MVP Jeff Campbell. "He's quiet and solid. He knows what to do all the time."
As a rookie last season, Mahrle was steady on the blue line. But he didn't get much of a chance on the power play. The Gladiators had Jamie Milam and Jeff Mason taking turns on the blueline position of the scheme. And actually, because he was playing forward, Mahrle scored his power-play goal Saturday from down low. But I would expect to see him remain on the unit even when he goes back to defense.
And when might that happen?
It depends, in part, on when Dirk Southern comes down from the American Hockey League. Southern signed with Gwinnett this summer, but was invited to Manitoba's training camp and has remained there. He played in Manitoba's most recent game, a win over Rochester on Saturday.
On Monday, the Moose assigned rookie forward Dan Gendur to their ECHL affiliate in Victoria, B.C. But Manitoba's parent club, the Vancouver Canucks, have suffered a rash of injuries and may need to call players up, which would then play a role in Southern's disposition.
The Gladiators could also get a player or two sent down from their AHL affiliate in Chicago soon. Unlike the pervious five seasons, Gwinnett has yet to receive any assignments from the Wolves.
So the top line remains Bruce Graham, Brad Schell and Bryan Esner. They had six points, including Graham's two power-play goals in Gwinnett's only game so far. The second line is Andy Brandt, Pat Bateman and Jordan Fox. Mahrle is centering Jeff Prough and Dan Sullivan with Marty Mjelleli as the 10th forward rotating in.
One unrelated note, something that grabbed my attention on Monday's transactions was that South Carolina had both its goalies assigned to AHL Hershey within a matter of days. Bobby Goepfert was called up on Sunday and the Washington Capitals assigned Mike Neuvirth to the Bears on Monday. The Stingrays, who are expected to be a force this season, don't play again until Friday, so there's a good chance one of those guys will be sent back before then. If you'd like to keep following this situation or need to know anything about the Stingrays, the Charleston Post and Courier's beat writer, Andrew Miller, has a comprehensive blog (www.charleston.net/blogs/stingrays) that is an excellent source of information.