In the college sports world, you won’t find two programs that draw your attention more than Michigan and Notre Dame and the same applies when it comes to college hockey.
Michigan’s legacy as one of the top programs led by a legendary coach in Red Berenson is well known through all levels of hockey. The Wolverines, ranked 10th by USCHO, take on the relative new kids on the dominating block in coach Jeff Jackson’s Fighting Irish. Notre Dame is ranked 7th in the nation and this coaching battle helps make tonight’s match-up (7:30 p.m. ET) the must-see game on the NCAA schedule.
Michigan heads into South Bend unbeaten in their last nine games (7-0-2) and have just gotten New Jersey Devils prospect Jon Merrill back from a team-imposed suspension. In four games the defenseman has four assists. That’ll do, kid.
Leading the way for the Wolverines is Coyotes prospect (and former Team USA World Junior gold medalist) junior Chris Brown, freshman and Stars prospect Alex Guptill, and senior Devils prospect David Wohlberg. Brown leads in points while Guptill and Wohlberg are tops in goals scored and now they all play on a line together.
The man to watch in goal for Michigan is Shawn Hunwick, brother of Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick. Hunwick led Michigan to the National Championship game last year before falling in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth and he’s been rock solid again this season.
Notre Dame is looking to right the ship after being swept last weekend by Western Michigan. Having to deal with the Wolverines won’t be easy, but they have the weapons to counterattack.
The Fighting Irish are led by Blue Jackets third round pick and sophomore T.J. Tynan with 31 points. Tynan’s performance this season should have Columbus heads turning as he’s been huge all year long. He along with Isles prospect, and fellow sophomore, Anders Lee have been Notre Dame’s best players this season as Lee leads the team with 14 goals. Having Red Wings prospect Riley Sheahan and undrafted senior Billy Maday give the Irish a fearsome foursome to watch offensively. Unfortunately the Irish will be without Sheahan tonight as he’s serving a suspension for delivering a head shot last weekend.
In goal is where things get a bit nervous for Notre Dame as starter Mike Johnson has had his ups and downs. When he’s good, he’s very good, but when he’s off the Irish offense has to step up big to help out. Considering that Johnson faces just barely over 20 shots per game, staying sharp behind a tough Irish defense can be difficult.
The last time Anton Rodin got into the Vancouver Canucks’ lineup, he sat on the bench the entire game.
Today, the Canucks announced that the 26-year-old winger has re-aggravated the same knee injury he suffered a year ago while playing in Sweden, and now he needs to rest.
“Our Canucks medical team and Anton have determined it is in his best interest to undergo a period of rest, followed by rehab, until his knee strength and function return,” said GM Jim Benning in a release. “Anton will undergo an MRI and orthopedic consult this week.”
In the same release, Benning confirmed that Rodin fell on his knee Jan. 6 against the Flames at Rogers Arena. It was the very next night in Calgary that he didn’t play a single shift, as the Canucks only had five healthy defensemen and were forced to dress 13 forwards.
“Rodin wasn’t 100 percent and once it gets past 10 minutes, it’s hard to get him in and once you do, it’s not fair to play him,” explained head coach Willie Desjardins, per The Province.
It’s a disappointing turn of events for Rodin, who waited a long time to make his NHL debut. He’s only been able to skate in three games for the Canucks, and his ice time was limited in all three.
Rodin started the season on injured reserve after re-aggravating his knee in the preseason.
Related: Anton Rodin is looking to make the leap
Having already lost Kris Letang to a knee injury and Brian Dumoulin to a broken jaw, the Pens received more tough news in the health department on Tuesday — in the form of veteran forward Matt Cullen.
Cullen was hurt after taking a shot to the foot in last night’s wild 8-7 win over Washington and will miss the next 3-4 weeks, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan announced.
Cullen, 40, is one of the NHL’s oldest skaters but has been remarkably durable since joining Pittsburgh. In fact, he hasn’t missed a single game — he played in all 82 last season, then all 24 en route to the Stanley Cup, and is one of just seven Penguins to appear in all 43 games this year.
The cagey vet has been steady in terms of production as well. He has eight goals and 17 points thus far, which had him on pace to match last year’s impressive effort (16 goals, 32 points).
It’s a tough break for the Pens, but there is a silver lining. Shortly after announcing Cullen’s injury, Sullivan said Dumoulin would travel for an upcoming road swing through Montreal and Carolina.
Expect a more composed Jamie Benn when the Dallas Stars take on the Rangers tonight in New York.
At the very least, don’t expect another stick-breaking rampage like we saw yesterday in Buffalo.
“I have to do a better job with body language and my play on the ice,” Benn said, per the Dallas Morning News.
He also said of his recent play, “I wish I could say how I really feel, but it’s probably not good for TV.”
The Stars’ captain is understandably frustrated. His team is four points back of a wild-card spot, and his production, with 10 goals in 41 games, is down significantly compared to last season when he finished with 40 goals in 82 games and his team won the Central Division.
Tonight, it doesn’t get any easier. The Stars will take on a Rangers team that will have Mika Zibenajad in their lineup for the first time since Nov. 20. Meanwhile, the rest of the Blueshirts have had two days to recuperate after their 5-4 loss in Montreal on Saturday.
It’s estimated the Stars will need to go around 21-11-5 in their remaining 37 games to make the playoffs. So regardless of their frustrations, they’d best get on a roll soon. A better performance from their captain would be a good start.
With P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Petter Granberg all out with their respective injuries, the Nashville Predators are a little thin on the blueline.
So on Tuesday, they set about adding some depth.
Brad Hunt, the 28-year-old offensive defenseman, has been claimed off waivers from St. Louis, per TSN. Hunt has spent most of this year with the Blues’ AHL affiliate in Chicago but, in limited time with the big club, has shown pretty well.
The Bemidji State product has five points in nine games for the Blues, while averaging 13:36 TOI per night. He was widely praised for his passing ability, and how quickly he helped the Blues transition from defense to offense.
“[Hunt] just moves the puck,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcok said earlier this year, per the Post-Dispatch. “He gets himself out of trouble, he gets the team out of trouble. He’s a smart player.”
That offensive output is what Hunt’s known for — a consistently productive AHLer, Hunt recently made his fourth career All-Star Game on the strength of 29 points in 23 games for the Wolves.