Who: #5 Michigan vs Michigan State
Where: Friday, Joe Louis Arena. Saturday, Munn Ice Arena
When: Friday, 7:35pm. Saturday, 5:00pm
These two teams met a month ago with the Spartans in the middle of what would be an eight game losing streak. The Wolverines won 9-2 in East Lansing and 6-3 at Yost. MSU now sits at 6-18-2, ranking 55th in the Pairwise. If the Spartans haven't reached rock bottom yet, I'd be willing to bet a series against Michigan will take them there.
Their grinding, Ron Mason style offensive philosophy has eked a measly 2.42 goals per game this season and without a viable top line scoring threat has ground to a halt.
Mackenzie MacEachern leads the team with ten goals but has only scored three since their series against MTU in November. Similarly, JT Stenglein is second on the team with seven goals but hasn't scored since that same Michigan Tech series. Joe Cox has six goals, one coming after a November series against North Dakota.
At the other end the Spartans are a disaster.
A woeful lack of goal support coupled with their conservative neutral zone alignment and collapsing shot blocking scheme has finally broken Jake Hildebrand and the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year has limped to a .896 sv% and a 3.28 goals against. As it turns out, putting the outcome of a game solely on the shoulders of your goaltender for four years straight takes it toll. Hildebrand has already allowed more goals this season than he did in each of his first three seasons and there are still ten regular season games remaining.
For the Wolverines
After a thirteen goal weekend Michigan has reached a five goal per game average. It doesn't seem like any team can stop this lineup. Unfortunately they will be without third line center Cooper Marody, who is out with mono. It will most likely be Justin Selman filling in long term as his replacement.
The Spartans are going to bang away in front of Steve Racine looking for rebounds and deflections. Clearing the net and lifting sticks will be key.
Sam Piazza has played well this season and really had a strong series against Penn State. We will see what Berenson decides to do with Cutler Martin returning but Piazza has made a strong case to stay in the lineup.