Kyle Klubertanz, who missed three games earlier in the season due to a right leg injury, will not make to Colorado Springs when the Badgers take on No.15 Colorado College this weekend.
Much like the unexplained leg injury that plagued Adam Burish a couple seasons ago, Klubertanz right ankle, after being soar during Friday's game, developed an odd infection that has baffled the trainers and the coaching staff.
"He was in and out of University Hospital this week and spent the night," head coach Mike Eaves said. "This popped up right out of the blue."
To say this year has been a struggle for Klubertanz would be an understatement. In addition to missing time early in the season, Klubertanz hasn't found the back of net, as the junior hasn't scored since the Badgers beat Ohio State at Lambeau Field last February, a span of 37 games.
"[Sitting out this weekend] is just a cautionary thing and we'll see what happens," a dejected Klubertanz sad. "It's been a bummer."
The defensiveman's injury adds another roadblock for a team struggling to make the post season.
Eaves' goal for this year was to see the Badgers play ‘patiently persistent' by not doing anything too flashy, waiting for the opportunity and striking when that opportunity presents itself. The Badgers no longer had the speed of Robbie Earl, the scoring of Joe Pavelski and the on-ice leadership of Adam Burish, but Wisconsin brought in eight new freshmen from all over the country with a variety of talent and a knack for scoring. Either way, this season was going to be a period of offensive adjustment for Wisconsin.
With the season winding down and the Badgers standing in sixth place in the WCHA, Wisconsin is searching for that balance between playing persistent and aggressive, as the Badgers failed to do that during their 3-1 loss last Friday.
"[Not having that balance is] part of the reason that we played as poorly as we did Friday night in the second period," Eaves said. "We came out and everybody tried to do everybody else's job, and as a result, we use the term dysfunctional, we got worse. We played ourselves into a hole and we couldn't get out the rest of the night."
Another area the Badgers are looking for balance is scoring on their power play. After going 0-for-11 on the man advantage against Minnesota State, Wisconsin ranks seventh in the conference on power play conversions (16-for-91 or 17.6 percent). Despite not scoring, Eaves looks at the weekend as a step in the right direction with the production not far behind.
"We out-chanced Mankato on Saturday 26-13, and we had six power plays," Eaves said. "You see the goose egg and in our book, the first goal that we scored on Saturday was a power play goal. That doesn't go down as a power play goal [but] we look at it as 1-for-6. We had nine scoring chances and six tries. It's a positive factor."
While the forwards are looking for the power play production and the offensive balance, the Badgers are looking to find ways to have their defenders get more shots on goal. Between the seven defenders the Badgers suit up, Jeff Likens is the last defender to score a goal for Wisconsin, scoring five games ago at Denver. Combine all the Badger defensivemen and the seven have scored a combined five goals in 26 games, or one every 16.6 periods Wisconsin has played this year.
"[Scoring has] been a point of emphasis to have our defensemen jump up and to play a lot more in the second half," Eaves said. "It's an emphasis. You want that support, that secondary support from your defense to create scoring chances like that."
No change yet
As a follow-up to one of the best seasons for any goalie in Badger history, Brian Elliott has struggled without last season's defensive captain Tom Gilbert. In 21 games this season, Elliott boasts an average record of 8-13-1, a goals against average of 2.26 a game and is saving 92 percent of opponent's shots. Through 22 games last season, Elliott was 18-2-2, a 1.51 GAA and saved 94 percent.
The same struggles do not parlay to sophomore Shane Connelly. Connelly, who is 5-0-1 in his last six starts, allowed only one goal in his third win of the season on Saturday. Allowing only four goals this season and saving over 95 percent of opponent's shots, Connelly has been a force in the net, despite playing sparingly so far this season.
After Eaves and his coaching staff pre-planned games earlier this season for Connelly to play and get his feet wet in, the Badgers might be looking to utilize Shane more in the near future. But for now, the net still belongs to Elliott.
"I know this weekend, what we've said all along is that we'll go night by night," Eaves said. "Young Mr. Elliott will play Friday night, and we'll see how we feel. If we feel that playing Shane would be the best thing for the team on Saturday, then we'll look at doing that. But right now, we know that young Brian will be our goaltender on Friday."
Joudrey's Going Uptown
Monday's press conference with head coach Mike Eaves began a little different that usual. After his weekly captain's meeting, Eaves found out that senior Andrew Joudrey was … forgoing next season?
"I actually have an opening statement, if I could," Eaves began. "I just had a meeting with the captains, and Andrew Joudrey would like to announce that he's going to have a press conference saying that he's just going to forego next year, forego his academic eligibility, graduate on time so that year will be left for somebody else. That's what he wanted me to tell you guys today."
No matter their record is, at least the boys in cardinal and white are having fun.