Three keys for Gophers to beat the Minnesota State Mavericks:

1) Fast start. Score early. Put doubt in the visitors' minds. Show who the best team is. Get crowd into game.

2) Need a second line to produce. Doesn't matter which one, too much. Lately the top line, especially Nick Bjugstad, has been carrying too much of the scoring load.

3. Better rush defense. Michigan State scored three of its four goals on rushes in a 4-4 overtime tie with the Gophers last Saturday. Gophers' D-men need to knock somebody down, make sure they communicate well, and limit odd-man rushes.

The Gophers' lines for the the first game of the Minnesota State series:

1st line/ Kyle Rau-Nick Bjugstad-Zach Budish ... One of the best lines in college hockey. Bjugstad was named national player of month for Nov. Rau was national rookie of the month for October. Budish was recently named Nashville Predators' prospect of the week. You get the point. ... The Preds own Budish's draft rights.

2nd line/ Sam Warning-Erik Haula-Jake Hansen ... Would really help Gophers if this line could get going more, Haula had goal last Saturday against Michigan State.

3rd line/ Nate Condon-Taylor Matson-Seth Ambroz ... If Mavs get physical, Ambroz will be needed to hit back. He's 6-3, 210 and three-year USHL veteran

4th line/ Tom Serratore-Travis Boyd-Nick Larson ... Serratore is Gophers' most physical forward. Look for him to get some big hits

Defensive pairs

Seth Helgeson-Justin Holl ... Helgey leads D-men in penalties with 14 minors

Ben Marshall-Mark Alt ... Marshall is a key member of Gophers' second power play unit

Jake Parenteau-Nate Schmidt ... Parenteau seems to have secured that sixth spot on the blue line corps. This will be his 15th game in 17 played


 Kent Patterson ... looked a  bit like a boxer the middle of this week with a noticeable scratch on his nose. Has played every minute this season