A few thoughts on the Minnesota State-Denver series before I leave for Colorado ...
Three keys to the series:
1. Joel Hanson needs to score: It's quite stunning that the Mavericks' senior captain and top returning scorer from last season has yet to register a point through the first eight games of the season. "Never in a million years," coach Troy Jutting said when asked if he ever thought such a slump were possible. "He's worked hard, he wants to play well and in a lot of aspects he has played well," Jutting said. "The scoring aspect hasn't happened, and we need him to score. It's hurt us when you look at where we're at." You can read more about Hanson and a full series preview in Friday morning's Free Press.
2. Sixty-minute men: The Mavericks can't afford the kind of letdowns they had against Minnesota last weekend, especially because Denver, which has allowed just 1 1/2 goals per game this season, doesn't appear like a team you can come back against (although if anyone can in this series ...). "We need to play 60 minutes," Jutting said. "We've been pressing that this week, obviously." Junior defenseman Brian Kilburg, who was a healthy scratch Saturday, needs to come back with a vengeance, be a plus player and try to prove his coaches wrong.
3. Special teams: After going four games without giving up a power-play goal, the Mavericks allowed four against the Gophers last weekend. Denver scored just two power-play goals in its first six games but went 4 for 11 in a sweep of Minnesota two weeks ago. MSU has to shore that up. Keeping penalties to a minimum will help. The Pioneers have been a perfect 19 for 19 on its penalty kill over the last four games. The Mavericks are 6 for 41 on the power play this season but scored three of those goals in one game at Alabama-Huntsville.
Here were the lines as of Wednesday:
extra forward: Stewart (can't play Friday due to game DQ)
extra defenseman: Friesen
Next time you'll hear from me I'll be in Denver. Look for some pre- post- and maybe -- maybe -- even in-game blogs this weekend.