Men's Hockey: After long homestand, Badgers travel to face Michigan

Following a 12-game homestand that ended with a 10-2-0 record, the Badgers men’s hockey team (5-3-0 Big Ten, 14-7-1 overall) will travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan (4-2-0, 12-6-2) for their third consecutive conference matchup.

This is the second meeting between the Badgers and Wolverines in three weeks after Wisconsin swept Michigan back on Jan. 10 and 11. This is the first time the team will hit the road since late November.

“I think guys might look forward to getting on the road,” head coach Mike Eaves said. “It just simplifies your schedule … you’ve got to eat, sleep and play hockey for two days.”

Coming into the series, Wisconsin has scored 29 goals against Big Ten opponents.

However Michigan senior forward Luke Moffatt leads the Big Ten with six power play goals, an area where the Badgers haven’t found much success.

“One thing we’ve talked about is just simplifying things,” senior defenseman and captain Frankie Simonelli said. “Stick to the basics, getting pucks to the net, generating goals off rebounds and shots and tips like that.”

Another element the Badgers will face this weekend is a smaller ice sheet. The Kohl Center ice is slightly wider than the standard NHL-sized rink most teams use. The reduced ice surface could pose a challenge for Wisconsin, especially against an aggressive forecheck like that of Michigan.

“[Michigan] is a bigger team, I think, than any team we’ve played,” senior forward Jefferson Dahl said. “They battle in the corners … One thing we’re emphasizing this week is the battles down low and getting the puck in behind their defense and working them. We just try to limit their time and space with the puck.”

Wisconsin will be without senior forward Tyler Barnes who suffered a shoulder injury after a hard hit into the boards Saturday night against Ohio State. Eaves has been weighing his options as to who can take Barnes’ place on the first line with senior forward Mark Zengerle and redshirt freshman forward Morgan Zulinick.

“By putting [senior Sean Little] there, he’s going to create more space physically because he can go in the corners in a small area where he can get the puck and get to the front of the net,” Eaves said.

Another option for the spot is freshman forward Jedd Soleway.

“We might put [Soleway] up there, big, strong guy who can shoot, and again, create space for Mark to take the puck off the wall,” Eaves said. “Because you’ve got Zulinick there on the other side … you’re giving them a little balance by having a more physical presence.”

While the Badgers will have to find a way to win without one of their top offensive producers, Eaves did hint that sophomore forward Nic Kerdiles may return to the lineup after being out with a separated shoulder injury that has sidelined him since Jan. 4.

Puck-drop against Michigan begins Friday night at 5:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. Fans can catch the game Saturday on the NBC Sports Network.

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