Minnesota’s men’s hockey team has been forced to play with slightly re-shuffled lines the past three weekends as it has been without the services of sophomore forward Kris Chucko.
But, for this weekend’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s Final Five, the Gophers’ lines – for at least one night – will go back to their old form.
That’s because Chucko, out since Feb. 18 with an ankle sprain, will return to action for Friday night’s WCHA semifinal contest against the Minnesota-Duluth/St. Cloud State winner, both Chucko and coach Don Lucia said Wednesday.
Both also said it is yet unknown if Chucko will play in Saturday’s game (either the championship/third place game) and Chucko said a decision on that won’t be made until after Friday’s game.
But, as of Wednesday, Chucko said he thinks he’ll be ready to play both nights.
“I’ve skated everyday this week for the first time in, I think, a month now,” Chucko said. “So far it’s felt pretty good. (I’m) taking it day by day. As long as tomorrow there’s no major setbacks, I’ll be ready to go Friday.”
Chucko also said the ankle continues to feel better and better and besides, as Chucko put it, “there’s three weeks left (in the season), so there’s not much to save it for.”
While he will play Friday, Lucia said chances are Chucko will not log his normal amount of minutes.
Chucko, who has four goals and nine assists (13 points) in 30 games this season, hopes that outlook changes by Friday night, though.
“I’d like to play a regular shift,” he said. “If I didn’t think I was going to help the team, then I wouldn’t dress. So I’m planning on going out there and playing a regular shift and contribute like a normal player.”
No matter how many nights he plays or how long he plays on those nights, one of Chucko’s linemates, sophomore forward Mike Howe (the line also includes senior forward Gino Guyer), said it will be good to have him back in the lineup.
“He brings a lot of energy to our team,” Howe said. “And when we need a guy to go out there and show a physical presence, he’s always the guy that kind of steps up; him and (junior forward Danny) Irmen. He’s got a lot of skill as well. He’s just an all-around great player.”