Wisconsin staying fresh with first Big Ten series ahead

Mike Eaves and his staff have done their best to keep things fresh at practice. - Larry Radloff Photography

The Badgers are eager to "bang the drum" against No. 1 Minnesota.

Coming off yet another bye week, the Wisconsin men's hockey team has been trying some new things in practice to keep from getting stale.

"I think, what it does, it gets us outside of our normal box. We've been creative," head coach Mike Eaves said of his team's time off at his weekly press conference. "I think we've learned some new techniques and training things and drills that have kept the guys' interest piqued, but at the same time, trying to keep them as close to game ready as we can."

The No. 12 Badgers (4-3-1) will have to be sharp if they hope to steal any ponies in their first ever Big Ten series on the road against No. 1 Minnesota.

UW has yet to play on consecutive weekends this season and is currently coming off of its third bye week. That time off has kept the Badgers from getting too high off their last game, a 3-2 road victory over No. 13 Miami.

"Had we played right away, that confidence would be lingering in a stronger effect," Eaves said. "I still think it's there. I think they have a belief now."

Despite their extended break, the Badgers should not need any extra encouragement going up against their biggest rival and the No. 1 team in the nation.

Under Eaves, Wisconsin is 8-6-3 overall against top-ranked teams and 3-2-0 against No. 1 Minnesota.

"The fact that we're going into Minnesota and they're ranked where they are, you know our kids will be excited," Eaves said. "It's an opportunity to bang the drum a little bit and make some noise by going in there and playing well, see what we can do."

Minnesota is in a bit of a transitional period this season after losing veteran forwards like Nick Bjugstad, Erik Haula and Zach Budish.

This past weekend, the fresh-faced Gophers showed that they still have some growing pains to get through.

Following a decisive 6-1 win over Minnesota Duluth Friday, the Gophers were "spanked," as Eaves put it, by the Bulldogs 6-2 Sunday. Even with that loss though, Eaves expects nothing but the best from UM this weekend.

"I'm sure [Minnesota head coach] Donny [Lucia] has their attention and will have them ready," Eaves said. "They're in a little bit of a grind with a young team. We're coming in with an older team that hasn't played. What's the match-up going to be? It will be an interesting weekend for sure."

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