Minnesota's biggest personnel change in Friday's Big Ten conference opener against Ohio State is one that it has officially known since Monday.
Redshirt junior Nick Seeler was suspended one game for his hit Sunday to the head of St. Cloud State defenseman Niklas Nevalainen. The Gophers have tried different combinations in practice before settling yesterday on Steve Johnson with Ryan Collins. Freshman Jack Sadek, who played four games earlier this season, gets another appearance in place of Seeler.
Big Ten play a 2nd chance for teams to start year
Minnesota plays Ohio State in the Big Ten opener for both teams, which have struggled in non-conference play.
"Obviously we'll miss Nick. He's a presence out on the ice. He plays a lot of minutes and plays in a lot of situations for us. It's an opportunity for guys to step up in that role and carry the load, share the load as a team," said Collins, Seeler's normal defensive partner.
Head coach Don Lucia, for his part, tried to use the opportunity as a teaching moment for his players
"Like any player you can't have contact to the head," he said. "I just told Nick that's a boundary that he can't cross. Play strong. Play aggressively. We don't want to take away that element from his game because that's what makes him such an effective player, but you've got to be careful when stepping up into guys.
"(Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas) Kronwall likes to come up and make those hits along those boards, but you've got to be shoulder to shoulder and keep your hands down. If he would have kept his hands down, he would have been fine."
Seeler isn't the only change for Minnesota at Mariucci Arena. All four forward lines see at least one change from Sunday's 7-4 loss to St. Cloud State.
Leading scorer Leon Bristedt is moving onto a line with Justin Kloos and Tyler Sheehy. Taylor Cammarata, who assisted on Bristedt's power play goal Sunday, replaces the sophomore on his previous line. Connor Reilly moves onto a line with Brent Gates Jr. and Vinni Lettieri while Ryan Norman, who scored his first career goal Sunday, replaces Darian Romanko at center on the fourth line. Romanako is out for the first time this season with A.J. Michaelson taking his spot in the lineup.
Eric Schierhorn is presumed to be the starter.
The Gophers were 4-1-0 last season against Ohio State, including a 3-0 win in the Big Ten conference semifinals. The Buckeyes did make Minnesota sweat in that game when a 39 save Adam Wilcox shutout featured 22 saves - several remarkable - in the third period.
Ohio State is 0-6 on the road this season. Head coach Steve Rohlik, who is returning home to the Twin Cities this weekend, and his team is looking for its first win at Mariucci Arena since 1998.
"First and foremost it is a bigger sheet and a lot more time and space. You have to be aware of your positioning I think is the most important thing. It is all about positioning," Rohlik told reporters earlier this week about playing on the Olympic sized ice at Mariucci.
Ohio State has also made a couple changes from its last game. Christian Frey, who has started 3 games this season, returns to the starter job Friday.
Up front, Christian Lampasso is out with the Buckeyes replacing him with either Freddy Gerard or John Wiitala. 13 forwards are listed meaning OSU will have to scratch a forward after warm-ups.
Full Lines are below.
University of Minnesota Golden Gophers
Leon Bristedt (#18) - Justin Kloos (#25) - Tyler Sheehy (#22)
Taylor Cammarata (#13) - Tommy Novak (#17) - Hudson Fasching (#24)
Brent Gates Jr. (#10) - Vinni Lettieri (#19) - Connor Reilly (#21)
A.J. Michaelson (#15)Ryan Norman (#23) - Jack Ramsey (#16)
Jack Sadek (#2)- Jack Glover (#3)
Jake Bischoff (#28) - Michael Brodzinski (#20)
Steve Johnson (#4) - Ryan Collins (#6)
Eric Schierhorn (#37)
Nick Lehr (#34)
Ryan Coyne (#31)
Ohio State University Buckeyes
David Gust (#17) - Kevin Miller (#19) - Anthony Greco (#44)
Luke Stork (#18) - Mason Jobst (#26) - Nick Schilkey (#7)
Tyler Lundey (#23) - Matthew Weis (#16) - Mike Gillespie (#37)
Freddy Gerrard (#15) - Dakota Joshua (#8) - Brendon Kearney (#25) - John Wiitala (#10)
[Note: One forward will have to be scratched]
Sasha Larocque (#3) - Drew Brevig (#4)
Victor Bjorkung (#5) - Craig Dalrymple (#24)
Tommy Parran (#6) - Josh Healey (#47)
Christian Frey (#30)
Matt Tomkins (#31)
Friday's game airs on Fox Sports North beginning at 7:00 p.m. CT. All Big Ten games are worth three points. A regulation or OT win gets three points, a shootout win is two, a shootout loss is one, and a regulation or OT counts for zero points. Games go to shootouts if they remained tied after 5 minutes of 5-on-5 overtime
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate