Gladiators finally see some different faces

DULUTH -- For the first time in two months, the Gwinnett Gladiators are playing a non-division opponent.

Since beating Wheeling on Nov. 25, the Gladiators have been battling their three division rivals for the top spot in the South, but now face conference-leading Elmira tonight and Saturday. Trenton rounds out the weekend set in Sunday afternoon's matinee.

It's the start of an eight-game home stand and head coach John Wroblewski said it will be good for the team to see someone new.

"It's always nice to have a fresh opportunity," Wroblewski said. "It's tough to show video on the same tendencies. It gets a little monotonous. This gives us a little different charge."

The Jackals present a big challenge as well. They lead the East 53 points and are 8-1-1-0 in their last 10 games.

Rookie Dustin Gazley leads the offense and ranks among the league's top 10 in points with 12 goals and 27 assists in 39 games.

Elmira's defense is anchored by 17-year NHL veteran Craig Rivet and Mario Larocque.

"There really are no holes in their game," Wroblewski said. "They have a very steady defensive corps that moves the puck. They are diligent in all areas and it's going to take a tremendous effort to win those games."

The Gladiators throttled back a little bit in practice after playing three games in 48 hours over the weekend.

"It was a pretty taxing weekend," said Wroblewski, whose team was 1-1-1 in the set.

"We tried to downscale the pace in practice to give the guys a little break physically. We worked on strategic things -- the neutral zone defense and the forecheck -- and also special teams."

After pushing its home record to 12-5-0-5 with a win over Florida on Friday, Gwinnett lost in regulation and overtime in Greenville.

"I didn't think they were exceptional games," Wroblewski said of the road trip. "Greenville did a really nice job of controlling the play, especially Saturday. They're a very difficult team to break out against. They played a real nice possession game.

"We adjusted and made some different moves for Sunday's game."

The Gladiators lost in overtime Sunday, but rallied from a 4-2 deficit with less than five minutes remaining in regulation to earn a point. It kept them tied with red-hot South Carolina for the division lead.

With another three games over 72 hours and forward Chris Clackson called up to AHL Houston, Wroblewski is waiting to hear from affiliate Portland on a possible player assignment. If that doesn't happen, he said they might have to get a guy from the SPHL for tonight's 7:05 start against Elmira.