The return of Vinni Lettieri and several line adjustments could provide the boost the Gophers need after suffering their first shutout in more than a year and half.
Lettieri returns to the center position on the third line and left wings Connor Reilly and Leon Bristedt swap roles on the first and third lines.
The Gophers delayed their usual lineup release on Saturday, likely trying to settle on several changes. Each line struggled to produce scoring chances on Friday night and any change could be good for the offense.
The Gophers had several hours on a bus late last night to reflect on the shutout. After the 3-0 loss they cleaned up and left for Duluth. The postgame trip avoided traveling two-plus hours on a game day and allowed for a morning skate on the smaller ice sheet at Amsoil Arena.
The seniors are the only players with experience in this environment. The last time the Gophers played in Duluth was in October 2011 and they swept the Bulldogs on their home ice. In February 2010 the Bulldogs were 1-0-1 at Amsoil Arena against the in-state rival.
“I think that was the first road series weekend of my freshman year, so I remember playing up there. It’s a fairly new rink and the fans are pretty crazy up there,” Gophers senior forward Sam Warning said. “So it will definitely be fun playing there on the road. We’ll have to take an approach like it’s any other game.”
The Gophers have lost the opening game in both home-and-home series this season. They struggled in the high-energy atmosphere of the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. We’ll see how they handle a similar environment on Saturday night in Duluth.
Friday replay: Top-ranked Gophers shut out 3-0. In-state rival Minnesota Duluth breaks Gophers' 17-game home-unbeaten streak, read Friday night's game story and postgame blog and box score. Watch postgame video of Gophers sophomore forward Justin Kloos, Gophers coach Don Lucia, and Minnesota Duluth sophomore defenseman Dan Molenaar (Eden Prairie product).
My feature this week took a look at how hockey rivalries inside Minnesota borders have heated up with the conference shakeups.
• HOME-AND-HOME SERIES PREVIEW: NO. 1 GOPHERS vs. NO. 13 BULLDOGS
7 p.m. Saturday at Amsoil Arena in downtown Duluth.
TV/radio/live stream: FSN Plus; 1500-AM; BTN2Go.
Gophers at a glance: The Gophers (7-2 overall) are coming off their best complete effort. They scored eight consecutive goals over two games and shut out previously ranked Notre Dame 5-0 in the series opener. Role players filled in well against Notre Dame and will be even more important this weekend as the Gophers face another quality opponent with veterans Travis Boyd and Brady Skjei.
For more on Minnesota-Duluth, read full series preview.
• Gophers Saturday lines (will be updated)
Forwards (left wing, center, right wing)
Connor Reilly, Kyle Rau, Hudson Fasching
Sam Warning, Justin Kloos, Taylor Cammarata
Leon Bristedt, Vinni Lettieri, Seth Ambroz
A.J. Michaelson, Christian Isackson, Ryan Reilly
Defensemen (left, right)
Mike Reilly, Ryan Collins
Ben Marshall, Michael Brodzinski
Jake Bischoff, Jack Glover
(Someone will be scratched from the lineup after pregame warmups)
Adam Wilcox, Nick Lehr
• Minnesotans in Duluth's lineup
Dominic Toninato, forward, Duluth
Justin Brandall, forward, Lakeville
Tony Cameranesi, forward, Plymouth
Karson Kuhlman, forward, Esko
Kyle Osterberg, forward, Lakeville
Cal Decowski, forward, Andover
Austyn Young, forward, South St. Paul
Jared Thomas, forward, Hermantown
Charlie Sampair, forward White Bear Lake
Derik Johnson, defenseman, Bloomington
Andy Welinski, defenseman, Duluth
Willie Raskob, defenseman, Hastings
Willie Corrin, defenseman, International Falls
Dan Molenaar, defenseman, Eden Prairie
Backup goaltenders: Matt McNeely, Burnsville; Alex Fons, Minnetonka