There is no good time to be banged up, but there could be worse times for the University of Minnesota men's hockey team.
Coach Don Lucia has found himself counting bodies, but at least it comes before a light third weekend of the season and not before the Gophers split a home-and-home series next weekend against conference rival Minnesota State Mankato.
The Gophers, ranked second in the nation, plan to sit out three players -- forward Kyle Rau and defensemen Brady Skjei and Mark Alt -- in Friday's exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 National Team. Alt is questionable for Sunday's game against Canisius, while Rau, who has been playing despite an ankle injury, is probable.
Skjei, a freshman having a good start to his collegiate career, won't play either game while battling minor injuries, but Lucia hopes he will be able to practice early next week in preparation for the Nov. 2-3 games against the Mavericks.
With the Gophers down to six defensemen, former national champions Keith Ballard and Paul Martin, locked out from their NHL teams, practiced the past two days. Defensemen Justin Holl and Jake Parenteau, who has played forward at times the first two weekends, will move to the blue line, at least Friday.
Lucia said barring injuries this weekend, the Gophers are leaning toward redshirting defenseman Blake Thompson.
Lucia will continue with his goalie rotation, starting junior Michael Shibrowski on Friday and freshman Adam Wilcox on Sunday.
Shibrowski was pulled from last Friday's loss at Michigan Tech.
"After this weekend we'll sit back and evaluate which direction we want to go," Lucia said. "They've both played well here [against Michigan State]. Obviously Wilcox outplayed Mike last weekend."
Lucia said the most satisfying thing about winning his 600th game as a head coach Saturday was the congratulatory messages he received from former players.
"That's what makes it the most enjoyable," Lucia said. "From kids I coached in Alaska, to Colorado College, to here, when you get a little e-mail or a little text from somebody, you hope when it's all said and done that you've had a positive impact on their life and that you help them along the way."
Seth Ambroz scored twice Saturday, including the game-winner -- stopping a 12-game drought dating back to Feb. 18.
"It's been awhile since I was able to put one in the net," said Ambroz. "It was a fun bus ride home, for sure. I didn't know it was [Lucia's] 600th win till afterward, but the boys were real happy for him. It's just great to be a part of it."