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Michigan - Ohio State Preview

Entering must-win territory, the Wolverines start with a trip to Columbus before returning to Yost Sunday

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Who: #15 Michigan (16-10-0) vs Ohio State (8-16-2)

Where: Friday: Value City Arena - Sunday: Yost Ice Arena

When: 2/20/15, 7:00pm - 2/22/15 5:00pm

TV: Friday: BTN Plus - Sunday: FS Detroit

About Ohio State

It hasn't been a dream season for Steve Rohlik in his second year.

The Buckeyes were wrecked by injuries to begin the season and what should have been a good opportunity for the program facing Providence, Nebraska-Omaha, Bowling Green and Miami at home turned into a nightmare. By the time the team got healthy and hit the road for a grueling stretch that took them away from Columbus for 10 of 11, they were already in a hole too big to dig out of.

The Bucks play with tempo. They want to get out in transition and push the pace; their forwards do a good job finding space and they can score in bunches, they just don't have the finishers like last season.

Anthony Greco has nearly tripled his goal total from last season going from 5 to 14. Senior Matt Johnson has added 10 goals, double his previous career high. Tanner Fritz and Nick Schilkey have added 6 each, but no one else on the team has more than 4.

On the blueline Ohio State is far below average in large part due to injuries. Sam Jardine and is their top defenseman and he can shut guys down, but as a whole the group has not played well in the defensive end and contribute next to nothing in the offensive zone.

In net Christian Frey is the unquestioned starter. Matt Tomkins has only started one game since he was bizarrely not pulled from the Michigan game until he had given up seven goals, which was a six goal decision to Minnesota.

Frey has decent looking numbers with a .909 SV% and a GAA of 2.27 but his workload is heavy and the blueline yields way too many shots. He can steal a game, but most of the time the barrage of quality shots is too much for that to happen.

Outlook

Three of the last four games the Michigan offense has been invisible. Three of the last four games, they've lost.

They'll have to start the stretch without Andrew Copp, who will be replaced in the lineup by JT Compher. Steve Racine is the presumed starter in net.

The stakes are high now. To say that this game is important is an understatement, not just for the season but for the program. The Wolverines need to win almost all of their next 8 games to make the postseason without an autobid and losing to Ohio State probably ends their at-large hopes. It's win or go home.