The University of Wisconsin hockey teams have a visitor at LaBahn Arena this week, and it could help set the stage for a high-profile guest in the future.
The American Hockey League's Rockford IceHogs are practicing at LaBahn Arena on Monday and Tuesday this week after being extended an invitation by UW men's hockey coaches.
The IceHogs are the top minor league affiliate of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks, whom the Badgers are believed to be courting to hold part of a future training camp in Madison.
The Badgers already have a number of connections to the Blackhawks organization. Associate head coach Mark Osiecki had the same position with the IceHogs for two seasons. Former UW associate head coach Don Granato, the brother of Badgers head coach Tony Granato, is a Blackhawks assistant.
Tony Granato was an assistant coach to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville when both were with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Blackhawks held part of their training camp at Notre Dame's Compton Family Ice Arena in 2014, 2015 and 2017, with practices open to the public.
Opened in 2012, LaBahn Arena is the 2,273-seat practice venue for both the Badgers men's and women's hockey teams as well as home ice for UW women's games.
From the infirmary
Forward Linus Weissbach took part in some of Monday's practice after missing the final four periods of last weekend's Minnesota series with what appeared to be a head injury.
The freshman was injured in the second period Friday when, after he drove around the back of the net and into the right corner, he was pushed from behind into the boards by Minnesota's Jack Sadek, drawing a cross-checking penalty.
Weissbach returned to the ice two minutes of regular time later and played about 2½ minutes of the final 7:26 of the second period following the hit by Sadek.
He stayed in the locker room for the third period.
Tony Granato said it's unclear whether Weissbach, who is tied for sixth on the team with five goals and 13 points, will be able to play when the Badgers host Big Ten Conference leader Notre Dame on Friday and Saturday.
World Junior roster nears
USA Hockey will unveil its preliminary roster for the World Junior Championship in the 4 p.m. hour Tuesday on NHL Network.
Badgers center Trent Frederic is considered to be a prime candidate to make the team that'll compete in the under-20 world championship in Buffalo, New York, Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
Three other Badgers players played in the World Junior Summer Showcase, an evaluation event July 28-Aug. 5 in Plymouth, Michigan: forward Sean Dhooghe and defensemen JD Greenway and Tyler Inamoto.
Greenway replaced an injured Inamoto at that camp, but Greenway hasn't played for the Badgers yet this season because of unspecified personal issues. He returned to practice on Nov. 6 and has been working to get back to game shape, Granato said.
"He's got to be ready for when he gets in a game, that he's able to help, not just get in the lineup," Granato said last month. "He's got to be able to come in and be valuable to our team."
The players named to the preliminary roster will go to training camp in Columbus, Ohio, Dec. 15-19 to try to make the final cut to 23 players.