Gophers in need of wins this weekend in Border Battle

© Jim Rosvold 2011 –

Border Battle Weekend begins tonight as the No. 3 ranked Gophers take on the Badgers at 7 p.m.  at Mariucci arena.

On paper, things are looking good for Minnesota, who’s clearly coming into the game as the better team.

The Badgers, on the other hand, have had a rather rough  time of late. They’ve got the WCHA’s worst scoring report, with only 11 goals this season and a pretty terrible penalty kill to boot.

Of course, all this is good news for the Gophers, who scored almost all of their goals on the power play last weekend. The bad news is that the home town boys just can’t seem to get the puck in the net when it’s regular old 5-in-5.
Furthermore, breakdowns on defense have been notorious for killing the Gophers this season and Wisconsin has been getting better offensively with each game, recording more and more shots each weekend. The upside is that those shots haven’t translated into more goals.
It’s worth noting that the Badgers are running a 1-1-3 forecheck, which isn’t something that the Gophers are used to. Head coach Don Lucia’s comments to the Star Tribune’s Micheal Russo indicated the team was working on handling this type of forecheck at practice.
The Gophers offensive unit is going to have to step it up and show continuous pressure throughout all three periods to pull this one off, since, as Lucia said to Russo, there’s going to be “3 guys skating backwards the whole game.”
Look (again) for Erik Haula and Nick Bjugstad to be conducting a fair amount of business in the Badgers zone. Second line winger Sam Warning is still out with an undisclosed injury; the team says he’s currently “week by week,” but might be out until Christmas. Nate Condon will be taking his spot.
Speaking of injuries, Michael Shibrowski  is out for up to six weeks, according to the coaching staff. Apparently he was injured in practice this week, so Adam Wilcox will be between the pipes for awhile. Things were headed in that direction anyways.
On the Badger’s injury list list is top scorer Mark Zengerle who’s out with a broken finger. And then of course there is that whole kerfuffle with Badgers star Nick Kerdiles, who is currently serving out a suspension for allegedly breaking NCAA rules.
Remember when we tied the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad a couple weekends ago?  Kerdiles was playing on that team. I’m sorry, let’s all go back to forgetting about that now.
Minnesota needs to perform well this weekend. The schedule is about to get a lot tougher for the Gophers and going into it with a couple of losses (or a loss, or a tie) is not going to be good for the team.
I’ll leave you on a happy note: the Gophers are 156-87-20 all time against the Badgers. Here’s to hoping that’s up to 158 by Sunday morning.

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