Freshman forward Zac Dalpe, the team's leading goal scorer with 12 on the season, is expected to miss this weekend's home series with an injury as the Buckeyes will take on Western Michigan on Friday and Saturday nights. After taking all eight possible CCHA points over four road games at Bowling Green and Ferris State, the Buckeyes (16-6-2) return home to face the Broncos riding a 12-game unbeaten streak.
Dalpe was injured early in Saturday night's game at Ferris State, which Ohio State tied 2-2 before winning the shootout to earn the extra CCHA point. Head coach John Markell said Dalpe is week-to-week but likely will not go this weekend.
As a result, the Buckeyes will need to replace the right wing on their top line, which features sophomores John Albert in the middle and Kyle Reed on the left wing.
"We have to find somebody that works well with Johnny Albert," Markell said of the NHL draft pick who leads the team with 17 assists and is second with 25 points. "Who does he feel comfortable with? In the meantime, they have to continue playing their game."
Markell said the Buckeyes will not break up any existing lines, which makes sense given how well the team has played over its recent unbeaten stretch that began in November.
With that in mind, a winger who has been a healthy scratch over the last few games and likes to shoot would then seem likely to fill the void. The most likely choices would seem to be sophomore Todd Rudasill and freshman Taylor Stefishen. The former has shown offensive flashes in his career after a prolific junior career, while the latter was a highly touted player who battled injuries early in the season.
Markell said he does not want that player to try to live up to being Dalpe, a second-round NHL draft pick who has shown his talent over his first 24 collegiate games and is tied for the team lead with three game-winning goals.
"We have guys that can play, and obviously this is an opportunity for them to jump up and play," the coach said. "They're not going to be Zac Dalpe, but they're going to be whoever they are, and my expectation is for them to be the best that they can be. They're here for a reason. We think they can play at this level, and this is their chance to show it."
Albert said he wasn't expecting to see a drop off in play from either the top line or the entire team against the last-place Broncos.
"I think we're going to make some changes here this week and try to work stuff out, see what works best together," Albert said. "Obviously Zac is a big part of our team, but we have to look forward. He'll be back pretty soon, so we just have to look forward to this weekend and play as a team still."
Both games over the weekend face off at 7:05 p.m. at Value City Arena.