Gophers forward Nick Bjugstad, who is second in the nation in goals with 20, is not taking St. Cloud State lightly this weekend. The Gophers play the Huskies in a home-and-home series.
"St. Cloud has lost a lot of guys, which is unfortunate," Bjugstad said, "but they have found a way to win, which is good for them. They are a good team. They have a good goaltender, good coaching. We have to make sure we bring it every game."
The Gophers and Huskies split a home-and-home series in mid-November. SCSU won 4-3 on its home ice, the Gophers won the next day 5-0 at Mariucci Arena.
"We definitely need points right now," Bjugstad said. "We are fighting with a couple of other teams. These are definitely big games. We have to make sure right away Friday night we have to be ready to play."
The Gophers are in first place in the WCHA with 26 points, but second-place Minnesota Duluth has 24 points and has played two fewer conference games. Colorado College is third with 22 points after a split with the Gophers last weekend at Mariucci Arena.
This weekend UMD is home, facing Michigan Tech while Colorado College is off.
"Our Friday nights, [we] have struggled over the past couple of months," Bjugstad said. "We've got to crack that somehow because when we hit playoffs we can't lose on Friday night because [then] we are really fighting for that Saturday night game and Sunday night game. We have to figure it out at some point. And I think we can do that eventually."
Last year in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, the Gophers were swept at home by Alaska Anchorage.
This season in their last six conference series, the Gophers are 7-5 overall, 1-5 on Fridays.
Bjugstad had four goals and one assist against SCSU in their last series.
"I love the line I am playing on with Zach [Budish] and Kyle [Rau]," Bjugstad said. "Good chemistry with [them]. The rest of the team is doing well, too. I feel like the puck is going my way and I like my line so that helps."
Bjugstad said he loves playing for the Gophers but still is not saying whether he will be back next season. The Florida Panthers drafted him No. 19 in the first round of the 2010 NHL draft.
He said he does not have much contact with the Panthers during the college season and plans to wait until after the college season to make his decision on turning pro.
Given how well he is playing, all signs point to Bjugstad leaving the Gophers after his sophomore season, especially if the Panthers encourage his departure.