Germany Ice Hockey USA

Tony Granato watches his U.S. team play Germany at the Deutschland Cup on Nov. 12.

PETER KNEFFEL, dpa via Associated Press

Here are some extra notes before the ninth-ranked University of Wisconsin men's hockey team opens a Big Ten Conference series against No. 17 Michigan on Friday (7 p.m., no TV, BTN Plus pay stream, 1310 AM):

1. Olympic evaluation

You can put the focus on the 0-3 record the U.S. posted at the Olympic-prep Deutschland Cup last weekend, but Tony Granato isn't going there.

Granato, the Badgers coach who's also leading the U.S. Olympic team, said USA Hockey officials got exactly what they were looking for in the three-day tournament: a chance to evaluate a large number of the players under consideration for the Olympics.

"Were the results what we wanted? No," Granato said after he returned to UW's practice ice on Tuesday. "But some of the things that we wanted to do, we got accomplished. We saw the players we needed to see. A lot of those players will be on our Olympic team. We played a lot of different guys in a lot of different situations. We identified the parts of the team that we need to have. All in all, it was a good experience."

A 28-player roster, made up mostly of those playing in European leagues, lost to Slovakia (2-1), Russia (5-2) and Germany (5-1). The U.S. outshot their opponents in all three games.

Former Badgers players Robbie Earl and Tom Gilbert were on the U.S. team. Earl had four shots on goal but no points in three games. Gilbert was minus-2 in two games.

"If you looked at the three games, we played well enough to win all three. It didn't happen," Granato said. "So from that standpoint there was a lot of good things to be excited about. The disappointing part is we lost the games. The good part is they didn't mean anything."

The player evaluation process will continue for another month, Granato said, but some players already have elevated themselves over others. College players will be added to the mix for the final Olympic team that will compete in South Korea in February.

2. Catching up with Cameron Hughes

Badgers captain Cameron Hughes gives his take on the Michigan series and what the power play can do better:

3. Ugly numbers for penalty kill

Understatement alert: Last weekend was a struggle for UW's penalty kill, at least in the numbers that count.

The Badgers limited Michigan State to just five shots on goal over nine power plays, but the Spartans scored on three of them. That .400 penalty kill save percentage brought UW's season total down to .800. (It's .909 at even strength and on the power play.)

The Spartans attempted 13 shots over six power plays in UW's 6-3 victory on Friday and scored on two of the four that reached goaltender Kyle Hayton.

In Saturday's 2-0 Michigan State victory, the Spartans had four shot attempts in three power plays and scored on the only shot on goal.

UW is tied for 26th nationally at 80 percent on the penalty kill. It was 14th last season at 84.5 percent.

4. Briefly all together

Thursday's practice was the first time since the season started that the Badgers have had all 28 players on the ice together.

It didn't last long. Forward Matthew Freytag left practice with an upper-body injury and is doubtful for Friday's game, Granato said.

UW had to do some on-the-fly shifting of lines during practice, so we'll see what the coaches come up with for Friday's game if Freytag, who has three goals in the last four games, can't play.

One interesting combination had Sean Dhooghe playing on the top line with Trent Frederic and Ryan Wagner. If that stays together, it would be the first top-line listing with UW for Dhooghe.

5. Better defense sought at Michigan

Defense probably isn't the first thing you think of with Michigan, and the Wolverines' series last weekend against Minnesota didn't do much to help.

They allowed 10 goals at home yet were able to emerge with a win and a tie over the Big Ten favorites thanks to scoring 11 goals of their own.

First-year coach Mel Pearson knows that long-term success isn't going to be built on allowing double-digits in a series.

"We're scoring goals. We've got enough guys that can score goals, that want to score goals," Pearson told "But to continue to have the success that we want, we're going to have to play much better defensively and keep the puck out of the net."

Michigan ranked in the top 20 defensively only once in the previous five seasons (18th in 2013-14, allowing an average of 2.54 goals per game). Offense, fueled by a string of talented forwards, has been the name of the game in Ann Arbor more often than not.

The Wolverines are right there again under Pearson, a longtime assistant to former coach Red Berenson, averaging 3.9 goals per game to rank fourth in the country.

At 6-3-1, Michigan is already almost halfway to its win total of last season (13-19-3).

"I would say they're a puck possession, very offensive team, going to get their defensemen involved in the play," Badgers associate head coach Mark Osiecki said. "They're an exciting team to watch. I think from a fan standpoint, it should be extremely exciting."

Michigan is the ninth team that UW has played this season and the fourth that has a head coach in his first year at the school.

Pearson had a guest at the Wolverines' practice at LaBahn Arena on Thursday:


In The Daily Cardinal, Ethan Levy writes on how Michigan is this season's UW.

Michigan has to be aware of the larger ice surface at the Kohl Center, Robert Hefter of the Michigan Daily writes.


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