ST. PAUL, Minn.- Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos may be intrigued about the national outreach the Big Ten Conference and its effect on the regional aspect of college hockey, but he's going to have to start the season without two of his top players.
Both sophomore defenseman John Draeger and junior Matt Berry are out for the next 8-10 weeks after undergoing surgery Tuesday, Anastos confirmed.
"It's obviously a disappointment they won't start the season," he said.
Draeger, a 2012 third round pick by the Minnesota Wild, spent much of his freshman year playing big minutes on the Spartans top pairing. While he finished the year with 10 points (1G-9A), it's not the first time he's dealt with an injury. The former Shattuck-St. Mary's player underwent surgery back in May.
Berry, meanwhile, led Michigan State last season in goals (15), assists (16) and points (31) as a sophomore. He was the only Spartan to average more than .5 PPG last season.
Both players are recovering from what Anastos deemed "lower body" injuries.
In the mean time, the Spartans head coach is looking for his entire team to step up.
"It provides opportunity, like every team that has injuries," Anastos said. "It provides opportunities for others to step up."
Michigan State went 14-25-3 last season, however, that team was rebuilding after losing five defensemen (including current Boston Bruins Torey Krug). The Spartans currently have 17 players who are either freshmen or sophomores. That experience from last year is something Anastos would like to see pay off for this year.
"We need to find offense. We were weak offensively. Part of that is our skill-set, and we're recruiting to that. Yet we think we can get better with those players that we brought in and players that we have. We think we can get better offensively and become a better team."
The 8-10 week guideline would have both Draeger and Berry back healthy in time for Big Ten conference play.
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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate