TONIGHT: The Orlando Solar Bears (25-24-5-1) open up a set of three games in three nights as they first pay a visit to the Peach State to face the Atlanta Gladiators (25-28-1-2) in the eighth of 11 meetings this season. Orlando leads the series with a 4-1-2-0 record. Atlanta comprises approximately 23.5% of Orlando’s remaining 17 regular season games.
DIVISION RACE TIGHTENING: With the South Carolina Stingrays locking up the first of four available seeds in the South Division to qualify for the 2020 Kelly Cup Playoffs, the postseason race has begun to shrink. A win on Wednesday by Greenville over Central Division-leading Cincinnati has moved the Swamp Rabbits one point ahead of the Solar Bears for third place in the South Division, although Orlando has three games in hand on Greenville. The magic number for the Solar Bears to secure a postseason berth as of Friday sits at 30 points.
LEBLANC EXPECTED TO MAKE RETURN: After missing the previous seven games, Solar Bears captain Chris LeBlanc is expected to make his return to the lineup tonight against the Gladiators. LeBlanc last suited up on Feb. 9 vs. Florida, when he matched his previous season-high of three points with a goal and two assists. The third-year pro has five points (3g-2a) in five games against Atlanta this season.
POWER PLAY SURGING AGAINST ATLANTA: The Solar Bears’ power play has been particularly strong against the Gladiators this season; Orlando has gone 9-for-26 (34.6%) with the man advantage against Atlanta.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT: With injuries to goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek affecting the depth chart for the Carolina Hurricanes, prospect goaltender Callum Booth has been reassigned from the Gladiators to the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. Booth had secured Atlanta’s previous win against Orlando on Feb. 21, who have gone 2-0-1 since then with the platoon of Sean Bonar and Chris Nell in net. The Gladiators have posted a 4-0-1-0 record over their last five games for the team’s best stretch of play this season.
The Solar Bears return home to host the Newfoundland Growlers on Saturday, Feb. 29 for Hockey Fights Cancer Night, presented by XYMOPrint. Prior to the game, the Solar Bears will also host their inaugural Food Festival. CLICK HERE to purchase your ticket package for the Solar Bears food festival and game vs. Newfoundland Growlers. CLICK HERE for tickets to this game.