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Irish preparing for Wolverines

Michael Blasco | Thursday, February 25, 2010

While their season hit a dead end the last few weekends, the Irish at least have a chance to derail their archrival’s post-season plans.

Notre Dame concludes its regular season this week with a home-and-home series against Michigan, taking on the Wolverines in Ann Arbor tonight before senior night  Saturday at the Joyce Center. The Irish (12-14-8, 8-11-7-2 CCHA) are currently sitting 10th in the CCHA, while seventh-place Michigan (18-16-1, 13-12-1-0 CCHA) has an outside shot at a first-round bye in the CCHA tournament.

While neither Notre Dame nor the Wolverines lived up to their pre-season hype, Irish coach Jeff Jackson still considers this series a crucial matchup before the conference tournament in March.

“I think people probably looked at this series at the start of the season as a showdown between two top teams,” Jackson said. “Both teams have been inconsistent at best, but we’re still playing for something. We have to go into this weekend trying to put something together before the CCHA tournament.”

Notre Dame and Michigan split a home-and-home series back in December, with the Wolverines picking up a 4-1 victory in Ann Arbor before Irish freshman goaltender Mike Johnson’s shutout win at the Joyce. Notre Dame has won four of the last six meetings in the heated rivalry.

Injuries along the Irish blue line in that December series forced Jackson to play the infamous “torpedo” offense for a weekend, a system featuring four forwards and a single roving defenseman favored by the Swedish national team. Injuries continue to plague Notre Dame, and the team has faded in recent weeks due in large part to a depleted bench.

Jackson said he believes that a strong series against Michigan should help his squad develop some consistency throughout the lineup, which has shuffled repeatedly as players have moved on and off the injury list.

“It’s important us for to start having some lines to play together,” Jackson said. “We haven’t had any kind of continuity almost the whole second half. It’s about establishing rhythm and confidence this weekend.”

While the Irish require a deep run in the CCHA tournament to have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament, Jackson says his team will not be caught looking ahead to March.

“Right now it’s about playing Michigan,” Jackson said. “You have to put yourself in the right position for the CCHA playoffs. We can’t look past anything. We have to go into the playoffs playing well.”

The puck drops tonight at 7:35 p.m. at the Wolverines’ Yost Arena in Ann Arbor.