ANN ARBOR, Mich — Some extra notes before the 18th-ranked University of Wisconsin men's hockey team opens a Big Ten Conference series at No. 20 Michigan on Friday (6:30 p.m., FSW Plus, 1310 AM):
Coaching transition ahead
Saturday's game could be the last time Badgers coach Tony Granato sees the Badgers play in person this regular season.
He'll leave Wednesday for South Korea to coach the U.S. Olympic men's hockey team. That tournament runs through Feb. 25, and the U.S. is guaranteed to be playing through Feb. 20. The quarterfinals are Feb. 21, with semifinals two days later.
The Badgers play two series during the course of the Olympics: Feb. 9-10 against Minnesota and Feb. 23-24 at Ohio State.
Like they were when Granato missed the series at Michigan State in November to coach the U.S. at the Deutschland Cup, associate head coaches Mark Osiecki and Mark Strobel will be in charge of the Badgers.
They also had to run the team last week when Granato was gone for the funeral of former Badgers player and U.S. Olympic general manager Jim Johannson.
"Last week, for the funeral, I missed five days of practice and we played two really good games," Granato said. "If the coach has to be there, then the coach didn't do a good job of getting his team ready. It's as simple as that.
"I'm confident in the guys that are here, and I'm confident in what we did all year to get us ready for this."
Cameron Hughes previews the series
Badgers captain Cameron Hughes talks about playing at Yost Ice Arena and being moved to different lines in this video:
Better in net
The Badgers haven't suddenly become "Goaltender U" again, but it's worth noting that their play between the pipes has been improved since the midseason break.
In the first three months of the season, UW was 51st of 60 teams nationally in team save percentage at .891. In January, the Badgers climbed 30 spots in the rankings at .912, which includes empty-net goals.
Jack Berry, who's slated to start Friday against the Wolverines, had a .921 save percentage in January. Kyle Hayton's was .926.
"We've got two goaltenders that are playing the best that they've played all year, so that's a good thing for us," Granato said.
While the goaltending statistics improved in January, the team's record didn't. UW was 3-3-2 in the month, the same record it had in November.
Friday morning's skate at Yost Ice Arena brought some goaltending news: Hayton was sick and missed the workout, so the team is flying Johan Blomquist from Madison in case Hayton isn't well enough to dress for the game. Teams are required to have at least two goalies dressed.
It'll be a game-time decision on whether defenseman Tyler Inamoto plays on Friday.
Inamoto has been limited in practice this week by an upper-body injury, but it sounds like he'll go through the pregame warmup before UW makes a final decision.
Granato hinted that the Badgers might dress seven defensemen even if Inamoto is able to be in the lineup. Tim Davison has been skating with JD Greenway this week. Cullen Hurley, who has played both forward and defense in his Badgers career, also is on the trip.
Up front, the Badgers have been using the same lines as they did last Saturday except for Jason Dhooghe replacing Jarod Zirbel on the fourth line.
Jason Ford didn't make the trip; he has been sidelined by an upper-body injury.
Future not far away
While the Badgers are playing Michigan in Ann Arbor, six of their recruits will be skating not too far away.
The Lincoln Stars are playing the USA Hockey National Team Development Program on Friday and Saturday in nearby Plymouth, Michigan, and three UW recruits are on each roster.
Defensemen Christian and Cole Krygier and forward Dominick Mersch play for the Stars. Forwards Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte and Owen Lindmark are with the NTDP's under-17 team.
Our Friday story was on the line of Seamus Malone, Max Zimmer and Will Johnson that produced three goals last weekend.
Also check out the series preview.
The Daily Cardinal's Ethan Levy writes that both the Badgers and the Wolverines are in survival mode and looks at hockey's line changes and how players prepare for short shifts.
The Michigan Daily's Anna Marcus writes that there has been little sulking with the Wolverines after they were swept by Ohio State last weekend.
The Daily's Jacob Shames looks at the Wolverines' efforts to get more pucks to the net on the power play, and Robert Hefter writes that Michigan is at the crux of its season.