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In 2004, for its 50th anniversary edition, Sports Illustrated listed the top sports rivalries by state. The ongoing, on-ice duel between the Spartans and the Wolverines topped the list for Michigan, surprising no one familiar with the storied history between the schools.

Michigan State’s Munn Ice Arena and Michigan’s Yost are just about 64 miles apart — but the distance between these schools may seem insurmountable when it comes to sports rivalries. They can’t even agree on the number of times their respective teams have met on the ice. According to Michigan State, the teams have played 296 times; according to Michigan, it’s 290.

Here are some notes about the series.

&#8226 Michigan leads this series 145-126-19 … if you believe what they say in Ann Arbor.

&#8226 Tonight’s game in Joe Louis Arena is the 50th meeting between the teams at JLA. The series in this venue dates back to Dec. 28, 1979. The Wolverines lead the series at The Joe 26-18-5.

&#8226 Michigan is 4-1-0 in its last five games against Michigan State in Joe Louis Arena.

&#8226 The Spartans last beat the Wolverines in JLA Jan. 29, 2011, a 2-1 game.

&#8226 In the CCHA, Michigan and Michigan State had the winningest programs in conference history. The Spartans had 586 wins with a .661 win percentage while the Wolverines had 558 wins and a .630 win percentage.

&#8226 The Wolverines are looking for their first win since they beat the Buckeyes 5-4 Dec. 2. They’ve gone 0-4-1 in the span since. You can add another loss to that if you count the game against the U.S. Developmental Team Dec. 5.

&#8226 The Wolverines have been outscored 14-7 during their current winless streak.

&#8226 The last meeting between the Wolverines and Spartans was Dec. 28, 2011, in the third-place game of the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament in Comerica Park. The Spartans won, 3-0.

&#8226 The Spartans ride a three-game undefeated streak into this weekend’s series (2-0-1), having swept Penn State last weekend and tied Ohio State Jan. 11.

&#8226 The Wolverines have the 29th-best scoring offense nationally (2.78 goals per game); the Spartans are No. 49 (2.38).

&#8226 Michigan State’s defense (2.33 goals per game) is tied with Boston College for 12th in the nation; Michigan’s is 19th (2.39).

&#8226 In net for the Wolverines, freshman Zach Nagelvoort has the 15th-best goals-against average nationally (2.06) and the eighth-best save percentage (.932).

&#8226 In net for the Spartans, sophomore Jake Hildebrand (2.21 GAA, .929 SV%) is 21st and 14th in those categories, respectively.

Picks

Drew

I’m not a “Michigan man” or a Michigan resident who formerly covered the CCHA like a blanket (Paula), but they tell me that this series is kind of a big deal.

I don’t know whether or not to declare that these games are “must wins” for Michigan because there’s still a lot of season left, and with a small six-team postseason tournament it still could be anybody’s ballgame in March. The Wolverines are coming off getting swept by Wisconsin and an 0-2 performance at the Great Lakes Invitational. Michigan State has recently swept Penn State, lost and tied Ohio State and went 1-1 at the GLI. The Spartans’ one win at Comerica Park, as we all know, was over Michigan.

Michigan 4-1, Michigan State 2-0.

Paula

I will go so far as to say that at least one of these games is a must-win for the Wolverines (with apologies to Marv Levy). Michigan needs to regain its collective confidence if this team wants to avoid starting a new streak, one that encompasses consecutive NCAA postseasons missed. I do not know what is ailing the Wolverines. I do know, though, that there appears to be nothing ailing the Spartans, a team that plays hard, consistent hockey with a lot of confidence. Tonight’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. in Joe Louis Arena and is carried by Fox Sports Detroit; Friday’s game starts at 6:30 in Munn Ice Arena and is televised by the Big Ten Network.

I’m going for the same split Drew is, but I am not at all comfortable with it.

Michigan 3-2, Michigan State 3-2.

The rest of the weekend

Picks for the rest of the weekend will be posted Friday morning, along with how Drew and I are doing with our picks.