When Gophers junior Nick Bjugstad announced he was returning to the U this fall in mid-summer, it meant coach Don Lucia could put his top line back together. But will he?
At Friday's practice, Nate Condon was skating with Bjugstad and Zach Budish on the maroon line. Obviously, who skates together in a September practice probably does not mean much. Coaches juggle lines a lot, especially early in the season or if they are not clicking.
But it was interesting to see who was paired with who. Rau, Bjugstad and Budish were together all last season. And Rau, no matter who he is with, could still be on the top power play with Bjugey.
In the last two weeks of September, coaches can only be on the ice with their teams for two hours. The first official practice is 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6. ... Head coach Don Lucia was blowing the whistle at Friday's practice.
Here are Friday's lines at Mariucci:
Maroon/ Condon-Bjugstad-Budish ... Condon is one of the fastest skaters on the team, a breakaway threat. He is bigger than Rau. Condon and Taylor Matson, who has gone, were the Gophers top two penalty killers last season. So he is a valuable player who has probably eared a look on the top line after playing on the third line last season.
Gold/ Kyle Rau-Erik Haula-Christian Isackson ... Haula was the second line center last season and, with a late scoring surge, finished as the team's top scorer. Rau played on the top line. Isackson bounced around. ... Rau and Haula could be magic together. ... Isackson played only 10 games last season as a freshman and was scoreless. He will get some points this season if he is on the line with these two.
Black/ Sam Warning-Travis Boyd -Seth Ambroz ... Warning showed flashes last season and has speed. ... Boyd played his best near the end of the season. ... Ambroz, who came in last season as a freshman with high expectations last season, could become a bigger contributor this season.
Blue/ Tom Serratore-A.J. Michaelson-Ryan Reilly ... Serratore is the most gritty guy among the forwards. He is paired with two freshmen.
Grey/ Jared Larson-Christian Horn ... Pretty sure that was Horn, No. 18, but I wrote down No. 12, who is defenseman Justin Holl. Maybe I need new glasses. Larson red-shirted last season and is a sophomore in eligibility; Horn is a freshman.
OBSERVATIONS FROM BEHIND THE GLASS
* The highlight of the practice was two huge hits within seconds of each other. Defenseman Seth Helgeson made the first near center. He checked a teammate into the boards and the sound shook Mariucci. Then defenseman Blake Thompson made a big hit along the boards. Same volume. ... Then the 6-4 Helgeson adn 6-2 Thompson skated off the ice together, their work done. The pair side by side reminded me of the Bash Brothers in the Mighty Ducks movies.
* Boyd scored on a nice rebound and raises his stick.
* The scoreboard at Mariucci looks ready, but seems to be hanging low.
* Asked where the fourth goalie was. There were only three at practice. Found out freshman Matt LaPrade is injured. ... Freshman Ryan Coyne was added to the roster late to replace LaPrade. Coyne, who is 6-1, 195 and played high school hockey at Maple Grove, will be the Gophers' practice goalie. He is from Plymouth.
* Thursday it was reported that Connor Reilly is out for the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee. Sources close to the situation now are saying the freshman forward also tore the MCL in the same knee.