Gophers hockey coach Don Lucia knows how much Erik Haula wants to play in this weekend's WCHA series against North Dakota. But Lucia said Wednesday that the Gophers will be careful with their leading scorer, who has missed the past three games because of a hand injury.

Haula resumed practice Tuesday, about two weeks after he was slashed on the hand in the Gophers' Dec. 30 victory over Boston College. Lucia said the junior center looked better than expected.

The top-ranked Gophers (16-3-3, 8-3-3 WCHA) will play No. 6 North Dakota (13-6-3, 8-3-3) in the teams' final regular-season series as WCHA members on Friday and Saturday at Mariucci Arena. The longtime rivals are tied for third in the league standings with 19 points each.

"We'll let [Haula] practice this week and get a gauge day by day of where he's at,'' Lucia said, referring to the Gophers' scoring leader, who has 26 points. "I know what he wants to do, but we're going to do what's in his best interests, too. He'll get some contact [in Wednesday's practice], and we'll see where he's at.''

Haula had scored at least a point in 14 consecutive games before his injury and has 99 points in his career.