Gophers coach Don Lucia said, his main concern this weekend is beating Wisconsin, not winning the MacNaughton Cup.
The Gophers have a two-point lead over second place Minnesota Duluth. So all they need is one victory over the Badgers to clinch at least a tie for the WCHA regular-season title.
"If you win the season series' with Wisconsin, Lucia said. "The rest takes care of itself. We are worried about beating Wisconsin."
The Gophers are 1-1 with Wisconsin. They played the Badgers on Nov. 11-12 in Madison after an emotional sweep over North Dakota at home. The Gophers lost the first game 3-1, won the second 4-1.
* Lucia had three teams at Colorado College that won MacNaughton Cups and two at Minnesota (2006 and '07). "They are fun," he said. "Hopefully, we can take care of business this weekend."
* Lucia said he knows how the Badgers are going to play. "They are going to be in an overload power play," he said. "And we have to control [defenseman Justin] Schultz and [forward Mark] Zengerle. They are going to forecheck hard. They will pinch their D. They are very good defensively.
"It doesn't change. We can fire up the video, but it still comes down to execution and playing well."
Lucia said senior forward Nick Larson and probably freshman defenseman Ben Marshal, too, would be back in the Gophers' lineup this weekend against Wisconsin.
Larson suffered a broken wrist in the Gophers' 6-2 victory at North Dakota on Jan. 14. He had surgery on Jan. 17. He has primarily played right wing on the fourth line and is one of team's best penalty killers.
Marshall missed both games at Nebraska Omaha with an undisclosed injury. He did not make the trip there. He plays on one of the team's power plays and moves the puck well.
He participated in Tuesday's practice wearing a white jersey with a big red cross, meaning others should avoid hitting him.
Nick Bjugstad, a sophomore forward, is the third injured Gopher. He was shaken up on a hard hit Saturday in the second period at Nebraska Omaha. He did not play the third period.
"Bjugstad is day-to-day right now," Lucia said.
AD SEARCH UPDATE
Lucia is one of the 21 people on the search committee for a new athletic director. And that committee met on Monday with U of M president Eric Kaler.
"Athletics are important to [Kaler]," said Lucia, when asked about the meeting, "and he wants to do everything he can -- and he re-iterated that to the search committee -- to find the best candidate we can possibly find."
Committee members offered their opinion on traits the new AD needed, Lucia said, and the meeting lasted about 90 minutes.
"We have a great academic program here at the University of Minnesota," Lucia said, "and he wants to have a great athletic department, too."
Lucia said he does not have a preference as to whether the university should hire an internal or external AD. "We should try to find the best candidate we can. Period. No matter where they are from," Lucia said.
2002 TEAM CELEBRATES 10 YEARS SINCE ITS TITLE RUN
"[They were] a group of guys that got it done," Lucia said when asked about the 2002 NCAA champions. "It had been a long time [since the last NCAA title. And that was a special team.
"The seniors stuck around to try to win a national title. There was a lot of pressure on that group, especially having it in St. Paul that year. But they found a way to get it done. It wasn't easy. It wasn't necessarily pretty. To get that win in front of the home fans, it is one of those memorable moments you will have as an athlete and a coach and a fan."
Lucia said he sees a lot of the players on that team. "The ones that are still playing are here working out in the summertime," he said. "So we see them.
"It was fun to see the change in their lives from 22 to 32. All of a sudden you are married and you have little kids."
A TEXAN FOR THE HOBEY?
Senior forward Austin Smith of Colgate is leading the nation in goals with 34. The native of Dallas was the first Texan ever taken in the NHL draft. The Dallas Stars took him in the fifth round in 2007.
Recently, during an interview with a British Columbia radio station, the former Penticton Vees forward was asked if he was a legitimate candidate for the Hobey Baker Award?
"If we win the ECAC and make the [NCAA] tournament and make some noise there," Smith said, "I don't know why I don't deserve a shot to win the award."
The Gophers' Nick Bjugstad is another strong Hobey candidate; he has 23 goals.
Smith played for the Vees in the 2007-08 season. That's where three present Gopher recruits, the three Reilly brothers, are putting up big offensive numbers this season.
In his one season at Penticton, Smith had 43 goals and 47 assists for 90 points in 75 games.
Smith said one reason he is scoring more for Colgate is the increased number of shots he is taking, five or six per game. "To have a goal a game is like a fairy tale," he said.