After coming off one of its best series on the season, MSU will head to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Thursday to take on in-state rival No. 14 Michigan
MSU (8-10-3 overall, 2-2-2-2 Big Ten) enters the series against U-M (10-6-2, 2-2-0) with multiple story lines involving recent star play, and unanswered injuries looming.
Two of three stars
Not one, but two Spartans were recognized Tuesday as top performers in the Big Ten this past week. Sophomore goaltender Jake Hildebrand and senior forward Lee Reimer were chosen as the Big Ten’s First and Third Stars of the Week for their play against Penn State (4-14-1, 0-6-0) last weekend.
Hildebrand made a career-high 48 saves on Friday night en route to his second shutout of the season as MSU beat Penn State, 3-0.
He finished the weekend stopping 77 of 79 shots.
The honor is the third time this season Hildebrand has been selected to one of the three Big Ten Star of the Week slots, including another first star after shutting out then-No.3 Michigan in the Great Lakes Invitational.
Reimer earned the Big Ten nod after scoring two goals, including the game-winner in a 3-2 win on Saturday, and notching two assists in the two-game weekend series. Reimer scored goals in both games against the Penn State, marking the first time in 124 career games that Reimer scored in back-to-back games.
Reimer centered the all-senior forward line of Dean Chelios and Greg Wolfe, who combined for 12 points in the two games. Reimer said the line’s recent scoring is boosting his confidence.
“Obviously when you start scoring, it gives us confidence,” Reimer said. “We’re just trying to do whatever we can to help our team win and this weekend, we were fortunate to play pretty well and get some bounces.”
It’s no secret MSU has been battling more than opponents on the ice .
Sophomore defenseman John Draeger has missed a total of 12 games this season, including the last four.
Head coach Tom Anastos said the current injury Draeger is battling is unrelated to the first injury that kept him out the first eight games. Anastos also called him day-to-day, not confirming whether he will play this week.
Sophomore forward Ryan Keller also missed some action this weekend after experiencing a concussion in practice. Anastos said Keller hasn’t returned to practice since the injury and is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms.
One positive on the injury front is freshman Villiam Haag. The Swedish forward took a vicious hit from behind into the boards on Saturday. Anastos considered the hit a “scary play” but luckily Haag didn’t endure an injury from the play.
Playing on a bigger scale
Anastos is no stranger to the Spartans’ next destination: Joe Louis Arena. Anastos, who played at MSU from 1981-85, was a member on three Great Lakes Invitational and four Central Collegiate Hockey Association championship teams at Joe Louis Arena during his playing days.
“As a player myself I always looked forward to playing there,” Anastos said. “I still do to this day, it’s the same thing. I get requests from family (and) friends to go to the games. I just think it’s neat being on (an) NHL stage and I know the players feel the same way.”
Senior defenseman Jake Chelios also has had plenty of experience on the ice at Joe Louis Arena, even before becoming a Spartan. Jake Chelios, son of NHL Hall of Famer and former Detroit Red Wing Chris Chelios, has skated with his dad at the historic rink ever since he was a child.
Now that Jake Chelios is entering his final game at Joe Louis Arena as a Spartan, he said it’s kind of sad, but it’s something he will take in and enjoy for the final time.
“Ever since freshman year I think this is the game that is circled on everybody’s calendar,” Jake Chelios said. “That’s my favorite game personally going back there. It’s always a great crowd and obviously playing Michigan there’s no better game, no better energy you can feel.”