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Michigan State Spartans at Wisconsin Badgers men’s ice hockey preview

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MSU needs to rebound this weekend to get back in the Big Ten race.

COLLEGE HOCKEY: JAN 13 Michigan State at Wisconsin Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan State Spartans are looking to rebound in a big way against Big Ten foe Wisconsin this weekend.

In the last week, MSU has slid behind in the Big Ten standings after suffering a sweep to No. 8 Minnesota. The Spartans also went without votes in the USCHO top-20 rankings for the first time since Nov. 8.

It’s the second series meeting between the Spartans and Badgers this season. In the first series, Michigan State senior goaltender Drew DeRidder had 88 saves combined in the two games, resulting in a 3-2 and 5-2 victory, respectfully, for the Spartans. At the time, Michigan State was riding on momentum set by a massive comeback victory by the Spartans against Ferris State.

Now, MSU is in a different position, needing some life to kick back into the Big Ten race.

With the win against Michigan State, Minnesota has rocketed to the top of the Big Ten standings, although the Golden Gophers just lost senior goaltender Jack Lafontaine to the Carolina Hurricanes, which drafted him out of high school in 2016. It’s a questionable move, and Michigan State head coach Danton Cole says “it’s not a good look,” and that NHL teams should not be able to “pluck” players from college teams mid-season.

Michigan State, meanwhile, has lost some ground. Prior to playing Minnesota, the Spartans were a point behind the conference’s top-four teams, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame. Now Michigan State sits at 15 points, six points behind Ohio State. The next two series for MSU will be against the team behind (Wisconsin) and the team ahead (Ohio State).

It will be a tough road for Michigan State if fifth-year senior forward Mitchell Lewandowski doesn’t return, as he had an injury in the Great Lakes Invitational showcase against Michigan Tech. Lewandowski suffered an injury earlier in the season, too, which the Spartans went 1-4 without him in the starting lineup.

Lewandowski missed the series against Minnesota, which now made MSU 1-6 without him.

Lewandowski is the team’s leading points-scorer (18). The Spartans have been helped out by a ton of defenseman in terms of scoring points, with Dennis Cesana (10) leading the way. If MSU wants a shot at the tournament this year, the Spartans will need to get creative in the offensive zone and stop relying so much on defenseman.

Both games against Wisconsin will air on B1G+. Friday’s game will air at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, while Saturday’s game will begin at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.