Wednesday Roundup: Lucia Talks Mariucci Classic, WJC And More

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Minnesota coach Don Lucia met with the media today and touched on many topics including this weekend's Mariucci Classic and the ongoing World Junior Championship where Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau are competing.

Q: What do you know about Niagara?

Don Lucia: They outshoot almost everybody they play. They like to play an up-tempo game and it should be an entertaining game for the fans. They have an experienced older team that knows how to play. They have been successful in their league and in tournaments and have been in NCAA tournaments.

Q: With Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau at the World Juniors, will you juggle your lines or just fill in two players into their spots?

DL: We have talked about that a lot. I think as much as we can we would like to keep Haula's line together and Matson's as well. It is just two games, so when Nick and Kyle come back we can just insert them back to where they were. We have been experimenting every day with what the other two lines are going to look like. We have changed it every day and we are changing it today and will settle on what we want to do for Friday tomorrow.

Q: But you do know that you will have some guys in the lineup who have not played that much this year.

DL: It is an important weekend for them. We know the two guys who are not here are going to be playing on a regular basis, so there will be some new guys this weekend on the power play and some new guys killing penalties. Obviously Nick and Kyle play important roles on our team. This is an opportunity to other people to get a little bit more time and try to muscle their way into the lineup. Right now, two guys are going to be playing this weekend that won't be playing the next time we play.

Q: Is this an opportunity for some players to turn some heads of the coaching staff?

DL: That is what we did the last game against Michigan Tech. We felt that we needed to add a little energy into our lineup and thought we were a little stale. We inserted four new guys into our lineup and I though all four played with energy and brought something to the table and that is what we are looking for and we need the same this weekend.

Q: Does it give you a little more room to experiment with players because it is a non-league game?

DL: No, not really. We do not play that many games. We have three more non-conference games and 17 more regular season games left and these games are important for us too. We need to continue to win and put ourselves in the best possible position.

Q: Minnesota beat Northeastern 3-2 in overtime in the Mariucci Class championship game a few years ago. The seniors this year were freshmen then. What do you remember about that game?

DL: I was sicker than a dog and up in the press box. It was going into overtime and I said, "If we do not win this early, I am going home." I did not feel very good. Luckily we scored early in overtime, because I was one and done. 

Q: You have not played since Dec. 10. Was the break too long?

DL: I don't know. The guys seem to be good and have looked good in practice. We have four days of practice and I think that helps. There is not much you can do. You look at our schedule and you cannot play during final exams and we want guys to get a break, so you are going to play before Christmas or after. I don't think the guys want to play three days before Christmas and then be off between Christmas and New Year's. It works fine. It is nice that we did not have to bring them back home on Christmas day. They did not have to come back until Monday and we practiced later that day. Now we are back into our routine. I think the couple weeks off is a good mental break and a good physical break, but they will be ready to go. There will be a little rust getting back into game action, but hopefully that will play itself out quickly.

Q: Could we see Blake Thompson this weekend?

DL: There is a chance anybody could play this weekend. I am not hedging who is playing and who is not. We are evaluating our practices this week and the 12 forwards and six defensemen who have the best practice are the ones who are going to play on Friday night.

Q: Have you watched any of the World Juniors?

DL: It is fun to watch, especially when you have guys playing. Obviously, we are for the United States and want to see them do a well. A guy like Erik (Haula) is interested in how the Finnish team is doing. He is a little disappointed that our practice today is the same time as the game. He was a little bit ornery about that yesterday, but they will get a chance to see a lot of it. We want our guys to do well and we want the U.S. Team to do well. It is such a great tournament and a great event and one that those guys will remember for the rest of their lives.

Q: Have they handled Bjugstad and his injury the right way?

DL: We had talked. I had talked to Dean (Blais) and with Jim Johannson. Our trainer was in contact with their trainer and we did not want to have a situation where it could potentially get worse. We felt all along it was about a two-week deal. Everyone knew he was going to be on the team, so there was no point in playing him in those exhibition games. They are not going to do anything to jeopardize him. We talked before he left about the importance of our team and our season as well. And Mark Bahr is there keeping an eye on those things as well, so I think he is in good hands.

Q: Could we see Michael Shibrowski this weekend?

DL: Just like Kent had to pay his dues, Mike is paying his. The most important thing Mike can do right now is to continue to work with Justin Johnson--which he has, he is an extremely hard worker--and wait for his opportunity. If Kent plays Friday night, he could get hurt and be out a week or two weeks or something. You have to be ready when you get your chance. And whether his chance happens this week, next month or next year I don't know. I do know that if Kent is playing well and he is healthy then he is going to play.

Q: Do you see Shibrowski getting a chance to compete for the starting job next year?

DL: When we start next year it will be a wide open deal.

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