Gophers goalie Alex Kangas is still battling a lower-body injury suffered in a Dec. 11 practice, held between Friday and Sunday games against Minnesota Duluth.
On Monday, Kangas tried to practice for the second time since getting hurt but had to quit after about 10 minutes, Gophers coach Don Lucia said during his weekly radio show on WCCO.
"That kind of tells you where he is at right now," Lucia said. "He has really tried twice [to practice] since the Duluth weekend. So he is going to meet with doctors again this week and they will determine whether he is going to need surgery or not. And if he needs surgery, I am sure he will be out for the rest of the season.
"It is less than ideal. I know he has worked through it. He has tried to get through it. But, right now, it is not looking real promising for Alex. We will try to keep our fingers crossed that nobody else gets hurt, especially at the goaltending position."
Because of medical privacy rules, Lucia has said that he can't say specifically what Kangas' injury is. A source close to Kangas said he has a hip injury.
Last season as a junior, Kangas' .917 save percentage was the second best in WCHA games and his 2.61 goals-against average was the fourth best.
Kangas being unavailable, Lucia said leave the Gophers short-handed with only two goalies for practice. "We might have to adjust some drills accordingly to make sure they get the proper rest," he said.
" If Alex isn't going to be able to play the rest of the year, then it is going to be a situation where Kent [Patterson] is going to play every game and we have to make sure he is rested and ready to go every night.
That could mean "giving [Patterson] a day off or shortening up his practices to make sure he is ready to go on the weekend," Lucia said.
The Gophers' third goalie is junior Jake Kremer, but he has never played in a real college game, only in exhibitions. He has been the team's practice goalie.
From his comments on the radio, Lucia seems reluctant to play Kremer. The Gophers are tied for sixth place with Wisconsin in the WCHA; they have played 14 conference games and have 14 left.
Lucia said he is tinkering with his lines a bit in practice this week. He said he is leaning toward putting his best nine forwards on the top three lines. That may mean moving second-line center Nate Condon to left wing, he said, to make room for freshman center Nick Bjugstad on that line.
"Our fourth line may not get the same amount of ice time as the other three lines," Lucia said. "And that is OK, too, with the TV timeouts. If we can find some guys on that line who can kill penalties or maybe play physical. ... And we are always going to get some injuries. That is part of the game as well.
"But we certainly have had our fair share the first half. And, hopefully, we can remain healthy with what we have now the rest of the season."
* Lucia on Gophers' 9-0 rout over under-18 U.S. team on Friday and whether it helped getting ready for North Dakota: "We also know the speed limit is going to go up this weekend, the body contact is going to go up this weekend. It will be a completely different game up in North Dakota. The thing that was the most positive for us was just getting the opportunity to play a game on Friday and not have the off weekend."
* The Gophers practiced at Ridder Arena on Monday morning, preparing to play on a smaller rink at the Ralph. "The game happens much quicker, there is not as much space" on a smaller rink, Lucia said. "You have to indirect pucks a lot more and you can't make those same tape to tape passes."
THE DON SAYS
* On his plan to move freshman Nick Bjugstad from right wing back to center: "It gives us a big strong centerman who can skate. And certainly help cover down low. I do sense in him that he came back [from the World Junior Championships] with a little extra hop in his step, a little bit more confidence."
* On the Ralph, North Dakota's arena: "It is a fun place to play. As an athlete, you like playing in those type of environments against a good rival. You have to respect what they have done and their program and the quality the opponent is, and how important it is to their fans up there. I enjoy these types of weekends. I really do. Some weekend you might get your butts kicked, but other ones you go up and have a big victory as well. So it is an opportunity. Ultimately, you have to perform in environments like that if you want to be a successful team."