Could be a fun game tonight at the Verizon Wireless Center as the Mavericks host the U.S. Junior National Team in an exhibition. The U.S. roster is full of college hockey's best young players (and others from the major junior ranks), including MSU's Zach Stepan. In all there are 26 NHL draft picks on the roster, including nine selected in the first or second round.
UPDATE: Kids 17 & under can go to tonight's game for free. Go to msumavericks.com to print off the coupon.
Stepan, it turns out, is all right after the violent hit he took on Saturday night in Huntsville. He practiced with the national team on Sunday night and told Dan Myers of NHL.com that he was removed from the game afterward for precautionary reasons. Dan, who used to cover the Mavericks for the MSU Reporter, also had this feature on Stepan for Wild.com.
Stepan, it's been reported by Chris Peters, has practiced some with the penalty kill. Today's morning practice in Minneapolis and night game in Mankato make up a very important day, Peters wrote, as there could be cuts before the team heads to Sweden where it will have more exhibition games before the World Junior Championships.
As for the Mavericks, they'll be without Stepan, as well as Teddy Blueger, who is in Poland playing for Latvia in the World Junior Championship Division I A Group. Latvia lost out in the relegation round last year in the big tournament. That tournament will end in time for Blueger to return to the Mavericks prior to their trip to Alaska. If Stepan makes the U.S. roster and the U.S. advances far enough, he'll miss the first half of that trip.
Minnesota State also will be without forward Brett Knowles (upper body). However, tonight marks the debut of sophomore defenseman Blake Thompson, who transferred from Minnesota a year ago. Check back later today for lineups.
Meanwhile, MSU moved back into the U.S. College Hockey Online poll this week after winning seven games in a row. So folks are starting to take notice of the Mavericks again.