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By: Chris Greene  |  Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports

Christmas is less than a week away, and the Atlanta Gladiators have three games to play before a short break for the holiday. After 24 games, the Glads record is 5-13-5-1, no-where near their preseason aspirations of a playoff challenge. This week they have three chances to close the gap on their South Division rivals.

The Gladiators have struggled recently, missing a number of players through injury and call-ups to the AHL. The return of forward Justin MacDonald will be a boost to the team. He missed a few weeks through injury but was added to the active roster just before the last game against The Orlando Solar Bears. He had seven points (2g, 5a) in four games before being helped off the ice, hopefully, he can rediscover that level of production and help the Glads get back to winning ways.

The Providence Bruins have loaned defenseman Olivier Galipeau back to Atlanta. This will improve the power play significantly, all three of his Glads goals earlier in the season were scored with opponents in the box. The Gladiators have also acquired rookie forward Bo Brauer in a trade for future considerations with the South Carolina Stingrays. In other news, forward Nolan LaPorte and defenseman Kevin Montgomery have been added to reserve, and power forward Tyler Howe has been released. The big man featured in 14 games for Atlanta this season, scoring no points but earning 19 penalty minutes.

This week, the Gladiators will play three times in as many days on home ice at the Infinite Energy Arena. On Wednesday night the Greenville Swamp Rabbits are in town. Atlanta’s last win was against them back in November, almost a month ago. They will be desperate to end the nine-game losing streak with another win over their South Division rivals. The two teams have met five times already this season, sharing 26 goals between them, one thing’s certain, the goalies will be kept very busy. On Thursday and Friday, the Jacksonville Icemen are in town for a double-header. Atlanta managed to take them into overtime last week, securing a hard-earned point in the process. The Glads will be hoping to improve on that result with a win or two this week.

This Week’s Gladiators To Watch:

Colton Phinney: With Miroslav Svoboda out due to injury, Phinney has a good chance of featuring for the Glads this week. He’s looked solid in his six games so far for the team. He was named ECHL goaltender of the week just before he was traded to Atlanta, so the talent is definitely there. He’ll be determined to shut out his former team, the Jacksonville Icemen.

Dave Mazurek: It took a little while to settle into his new surroundings, but Mazurek has been impressive recently. Three points in his last four games and a +2 rating make him one of the most in-form forwards on the Glads current roster. He will look to build on that platform in the coming games, keep an eye on him.

Derek Nesbitt: I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve mentioned Nesbitt as a key player, but his numbers prove he’s one of the best. He’s the Glads joint top-scorer this season with 16 points (6g, 10a) and kept Atlanta’s hopes alive with a goal last week against Orlando. You can never count him out.

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