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Michigan - Penn State Preview

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The Wolverines open Big Ten play when Penn State visits Yost.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Penn State at Michigan

When: 11/21/14 FS Detroit+ - 11/22/14 Comcast 900, 7:35pm

Where: Yost Ice Arena

About Penn State

Penn State enters it's second full season of D-1 hockey by getting off to a fast start with wins over UConn, Holy Cross, Bentley and UMass-Lowell. The Wolverines lost two games to Penn State a year ago; losses that kept Michigan from the postseason, a forgettable ending that the players from last season's team have not forgotten.

Offensive Zone

After the AIC series the Wolverines think they have finally found the right line combinations, putting together Tyler Motte, Andrew Copp and Andrew Sinelli on the top line. JT Compher has been moved back to center with Boo Nieves and Max Shuart, a combination that has also preformed well to go along with the Kile-Larkin-Hyman line.

This is the test for Red Berenson and his team. Penn State is well coached team and we found out last year that putting 12 forwards on the ice and letting them go just isn't going to cut it. Guy Gadowsky will keep his defensemen back and push Michigan to the outside, slowing down the pace and neutralizing the Wolverine speed. Berenson has to keep his team from falling into that trap, or they'll fire wide shots from the boards at Skoff all night.

Ranking 17th in the nation in goals allowed, the Nittany Lions return their core of defensemen from last season, Luke Juha, Nate Jensen and Patrick Koudys. The aforementioned Koudys is the team's best defensemen, logging a ton of minutes 5-on-5 and playing any situational or special teams scenario.

Matthew Skoff has been as underrated as they come over the past two seasons but anyone who has seen him play knows Skoff is more than capable of taking over a game, backstopping wins over Vermont, Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin in Penn State's transition year.

For the Wolverines to get two wins they must use the Yost crowd, crowd the net in front of Skoff and take advantage of power play opportunities.

Defensive Zone

The Wolverine blueline has been a source of inconsistency through 9 games struggling with line changes, alignments, pinching and penalty killing, but because the pairings never stay the same these problems never get fixed. There isn't another tuneup, it has to get fixed now. Expect your left defense to be Mike Downing, Zach Werenski and Cutler Martin. Right defense to be Mike Chiasson, Brennan Serville and Kevin Lohan.

The Nittany Lions are led offensively by familiar names. Casey Bailey and Eric Sheid lead the team in goal scoring and Taylor Holstrom is the NCAA scoring leader with 16. They play a tough, to the net style that starts with forechecking deep in the zone to force turnovers. The Wolverines must keep the pace slow and limit Penn State in transition where they make most of their mistakes.

Outlook

Every series at home from here on out is a must win. On any given night Michigan can be one of the best teams in the country, or one of the worst. Which Wolverine team shows up?