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Kohl Center Zamboni

Five items to digest before the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team opens a non-conference series against Omaha at the Kohl Center on Friday (7:30 p.m., ASN, 1310 AM):

1. They've got the power

Omaha has the most dangerous power play in the country, scoring on nearly one of every three chances (32.5 percent) and accounting for 25 of the Mavericks' 49 goals.

The Badgers are fourth nationally with a power play operating at 24.3 percent, so they're no slouches, either.

With such a potent opponent, however, UW is especially cognizant of what can happen if it starts a parade to the penalty box.

"We've got to be smart. We can't be taking dumb penalties," Badgers captain Luke Kunin said. "The way the game is now, they're calling a lot of things. So we've just got to be ready for that."

The 14 power-play attempts combined for UW and Denver in last Saturday's game tied for the most this season in a Badgers game. There were also 14 in the season-opening loss to Northern Michigan and in the Oct. 14 victory over Boston College.

The Badgers had been on a penalty-killing roll until the loss to Denver, in which the Pioneers were 2-for-7. That ended a string of five straight games without a power-play goal allowed for the Badgers, who rank eighth in penalty kill (88.9 percent).

2. New forward line

A week after making major changes to the top three forward lines, Badgers coach Tony Granato made just one shift ahead of the series with Omaha.

Matthew Freytag moved up from the fourth line to join the line centered by Jason Ford, with Will Johnson on the right side. That pushed Dan Labosky down into the mix for ice time in the fourth group.

"I think he's got more offensive upside," Granato said of Freytag, a sophomore who has one assist and is minus-1 in seven games. "He's got a great shot. And I think him and Ford and (Johnson) together, they might support each other very nicely."

3. Chatting with Freytag

Hear Freytag address playing with new linemates and talk about the series with Omaha in this video.

4. Changes on defense

The Badgers also made some changes on defense this week, pairing Patrick Sexton with Tim Davison and Cullen Hurley with Jake Bunz.

Granato said he expects Sexton to get some playing time this weekend after missing the last four games.

The other two defensive pairings in practice were Peter Tischke with Corbin McGuire and JD Greenway with Jake Linhart.

5. Road warriors

Omaha owns the nation's best record in games away from home this season.

The Mavericks are 4-0-1 in true road games and won a neutral-site contest against Alaska Anchorage in a tournament in Fairbanks, Alaska.

UW, meanwhile, is just 3-3 at home.


• The Badger Herald's Ben Pierce previews the series with the Mavericks.


Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.