MAINE vs. MINNESOTA
Time, site: Friday, 8 p.m.; Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.
Records: Maine 0-0, Minnesota 0-0
Series, last meeting: Maine leads 12-10; Minnesota 1-0 (OT) on 3/26/05
Key players (last year’s stats): Maine – LW Josh Soares (15 goals, 26 assists), C Michel Leveille (16 & 24), LW Billy Ryan (10 & 18), D Brett Tyler (7 & 16), C Keenan Hopson (4 & 19), D Mike Lundin (3 & 13), G Ben Bishop (21-8-2, 2.28 GAA, .907 save pct.); Minnesota – D Alex Goligoski (11 & 28), LW Ben Gordon (12 & 17), C Ryan Stoa (10 & 15), C Blake Wheeler (9 & 14), LW-RW Mike Howe (13 & 6), D Erik Johnson (DNP), G Jeff Frazee (6-3-2, 2.36, .910)
Outlook: Johnson was the first pick in the NHL draft (St. Louis). Frazee backed up Kellen Briggs last season but Briggs is serving a three-game suspension. Briggs made 25 saves in a 1-0 overtime win over Maine in the NCAA tourney two years ago. Three of the last four meetings have been decided in overtime, all in the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota returns just one of its top five point-getters from a year ago in Goligoski. Maine will have to be sound defensively and take the body against the youthful Gophers. The line of Soares-Leveille-Teddy Purcell should give the Gopher defense fits. Minnesota will be quick and explosive, so the Bears can’t turn the puck over in the danger areas (both blue lines, neutral zone). Former Bear stars Paul Kariya, who plays for the Nashville Predators, and Keith Carney (Minnesota Wild) are expected to be on hand and may address the team before the game.