Wisconsin Badgers prepare to fill in the gaps without defenseman K’Andre Miller

February 16, 2019

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team will have at least two weeks, and probably three, to play without one of its key defensemen.

K’Andre Miller’s absence with a left leg injury puts Jesper Peltonen into the lineup. What remains to be seen is how well the freshman can hold up his end of things and how much the Badgers will use him.

Peltonen has dressed for seven games this season but played in only five, and sporadically at that. The Badgers can consider themselves fortunate that injuries haven’t played too big of a role on defense this season, but Miller’s absence will test them.

UW plays at No. 15 Notre Dame on Friday (6 p.m., NBCSN, 1310 AM) with Peltonen alongside Ty Emberson.

“He’s worked hard in practice,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said of Peltonen. “He fits in with our team well. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do to be ready for this. This is his chance to show why he’s here.”

Granato said that there’s no real chance that Miller, who was helped off the ice after crashing hard into the boards last Saturday, will play next week at Penn State. There’s a chance the freshman leading scorer could return for the final weekend of the regular season against Michigan, but the most likely scenario has him returning for the first round of the Big Ten Conference playoffs.

“It’s a lot better than it could have been,” Granato said of Miller’s injury.

The Badgers have had only three games without all of their top six defensemen in the lineup: twice against Denver while Miller was at the World Junior Championship and the Jan. 26 game at Minnesota that Tyler Inamoto missed with an upper-body injury.

Peltonen moved into the lineup in those games and saw some shifts. But the Badgers also mixed and matched the other five defensemen on the ice more. The same is likely to happen to some extent in upcoming games.

“That’s why we’ve got him here, to be a guy that could come in and handle some of the responsibilities of being a regular D,” Granato said of Peltonen. “It doesn’t mean he’s going to play 25 minutes. It doesn’t mean he’s going to play 20. He might play 10, might play 12, might play eight. It depends on how the game goes.”

Caught on video

Senior Matthew Freytag discusses how the Badgers can rebound from last week’s sweep by Ohio State:

Three more things

• Freytag and defenseman Josh Ess took turns in Miller’s place on the Badgers’ power play this week in practice. UW has gone seven games and 25 attempts since its last power-play goal, when it went 2-for-3 in a 6-4 loss to the Irish on Jan. 18.

• The only other time the Badgers took a losing record into a series at Notre Dame was Dec. 5-6, 1975. Then, the Badgers were 3-9 before losing to and tying the Irish at the Joyce Center.

• Taking a cue from the NHL, Notre Dame installed four fixed cameras, two at each blue line, to be used in case of a review for offside. At each blue line, there’s a camera at the top of the dasher boards on one side and a camera elevated above the tunnel to the locker room at the other.

Put it in quotes

Badgers senior Seamus Malone, on UW’s effort in a 4-1 loss to Ohio State last Saturday, the night the team retired Mark Johnson’s No. 10 jersey:

“If you can’t get up for a sold-out crowd and one of the special nights in Badger hockey history, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Our compete wasn’t there for 60 minutes of hockey. We had some stretches where we looked good but it just wasn’t there. The third period, we finally bounced back but it was too little, too late.”

Lining up

Here’s the projected Badgers lineup for Friday:

Jack Gorniak - Seamus Malone - Will Johnson

Linus Weissbach - Tarek Baker - Sean Dhooghe

Roman Ahcan - Dominick Mersch - Brock Caufield

Max Zimmer - Mick Messner - Matthew Freytag

Extra forward: Jason Dhooghe or Jarod Zirbel

Wyatt Kalynuk - Tyler Inamoto

Josh Ess - Peter Tischke

Jesper Peltonen - Ty Emberson

Starting goaltender: Daniel Lebedeff

Keep reading

The Badgers aren’t letting a losing season change the course of their program rebuild, Granato said.

Here’s the series preview for UW against Notre Dame.

From earlier in the week, the report on UW’s Miller being out for the series.

Badgers forward Ty Pelton-Byce is getting a chance to play for the U.S. during his transfer year.

WNDU looks at the Notre Dame side, with the Irish trying to secure home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

In The Observer, Jack Concannon writes about Notre Dame looking to take advantage of games in hand in the standings.