The Wisconsin men's hockey team is currently in a must-win situation. In order to have a chance at a bid for the NCAA tournament, the Badgers must at least reach the WCHA Final Five championship game on Saturday.
To accomplish that goal, the Badgers will need to rely on their depth once again. In question for the weekend are three main cogs on the UW roster in forward Derek Lee and defensemen Frankie Simonelli and Jake McCabe.
Lee injured his knee on Feb. 25 against Penn State, and he hasn't skated since that time. Simonelli appeared to be favoring his right arm on Saturday toward the end of Wisconsin's win over Minnesota-Duluth. To make matters worse, McCabe limped off the ice on Saturday favoring his leg and did not return to the contest.
According to a report from the Wisconsin State Journal on Tuesday night, Lee will not be available Thursday when the Badgers play Minnesota State. Head coach Mike Eaves added that he's not ready to skate yet. That means Wisconsin won't have the senior center until at least next week if the Badgers are able to pull off the improbable and earn an NCAA berth.
The report from the State Journal notes that McCabe was back on the ice Tuesday and skated on his own before Wisconsin's team practice. Eaves noted they are hopeful to have McCabe available Thursday, but it will depend on progress made when the Badgers practice at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday in preparation for the Final Five.
One positive note for Wisconsin is that it appears Simonelli will be able to go on Thursday. Matt Masterson from the Daily Cardinal reported that Simonelli practiced in full on Tuesday. With his regular partner McCabe not on the ice, Simonelli skated in a pairing with junior Chase Drake.
Thankfully for the Badgers, if Drake is in the lineup, he's not short on experience. Drake had been the odd man out recently with how well the Wisconsin defense was playing, but Drake has played in 18 games this season for the Badgers.
If McCabe can't play, Drake will likely take his spot on Wisconsin's top power play unit as well.
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