Dec. 5, 2008

Courtesy of Michigan State

Michigan State prepares to tangle with archrival Michigan in the first of two weekend sets this season. The teams will play a home-and-home series, with Friday's game in Ann Arbor before playing Saturday in East Lansing.

Date/Time: Dec. 5, 7:35 p.m., Ann Arbor, Mich.; Dec. 6, 7:05 p.m., East Lansing, Mich.
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shoot for a cure
Michigan State hockey's "Shoot for a Cure" initiative will feature two events at the Spartans' game on Saturday at Munn Arena. Saturday's game will feature the first of two "Chuck-a-Puck" games this season, as well as a silent auction and t-shirt sale. More details can be found at both on this weekend's events and the initiative, founded by former Spartan Justin Abdelkader and current senior Daniel Sturges.

series history
Michigan State trails the all-time series with the Wolverines by a 119-132-18 margin. The Wolverines have a 67-42-4 edge when playing on their home sheet, while MSU holds a 59-45-9 record in games played in East Lansing. MSU took five of a possible eight points in the four meetings of the teams a year ago (2-1-0), which included a 1-0 shutout victory in Ann Arbor, a 5-2 win and 2-2 stalemate at Munn.
Michigan State has not lost to the Wolverines at home since November 2004, a 3-0-2 stretch.

when we last left our heroes
The Spartans are coming off a loss to Wisconsin and a tie against Minnesota in the College Hockey Showcase. MSU and Minnesota skated to a tie for the third straight season in this event. The two previous scores were 2-2 (2007) and 3-3 (2008).

random tidbits
• Michigan has won 132 games in this series, but 41 of those wins came between 1922 and 1957. The Spartans recorded only two victories in that span. • There is a five-game discrepancy between MSU and U-M's all-time series records, all in the early 1920's. The MSU records have four more Wolverine victories and one for the Spartans.

recent meetings
Over the last six seasons (the tenure of Rick Comley at Michigan State), the series has been remarkably even - the Spartans own a 11-9-8 record against their archrival. The teams have met 15 times in the last three seasons. Seven of the games were decided by three-goal margins (four for MSU, three for U-M). Five of the remaining eight were ties.

losing ledgers
MSU had a winless November (0-7-2), its first losing month in more than a year. The last sub-.500 month for Michigan State was in Feb. 2007, going 3-4-2. Incidently, the Spartans were also sub-.500 in November that season as well.

gaining ground
Rick Comley owns a 743-568-97 (.560) career overall coaching record. He needs two wins to surpass Bob Peters for fourth place on the all-time wins list. Peters, who coached from 1964-2001 at North Dakota and Bemidji State, has 744 victories. Former MSU coach and athletic director Ron Mason finished his career behind the bench in 2002 with 924 wins, while Jerry York of Boston College has 812 and Jack Parker of Boston University has 789.

traveling road show
Michigan State is in a rather daunting stretch of the schedule - between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, the Spartans will play 21 games - and only five of them will be played at home. This does not include the Dec. 16 exhibition against the US National Team Development Program.

around the league
Five conference series are on tap this weekend, and Ohio State will play a neutral-site non-conference tilt when it takes on Robert Morris at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Conference-wise, its Alaska at Nebraska-Omaha, Northern Michigan at Lake Superior, Notre Dame at Ferris State, and Miami at Western Michigan in addition to the MSU-UM series.

ccha outlook
The Spartans, who finished third in the 2007-08 season, are projected fifth in the CCHA's preseason coaches poll (96 points), while the media surveyed had MSU third, with two first-place votes and 776 points. The groups were split on their decisions - the coaches selected Notre Dame (128 pts., eight first-place votes) as the favorite, followed by Michigan (122 points, three first-place votes), Miami (108 points, one first-place vote), Northern Michigan (102 points), and the Spartans. From the media poll, the Wolverines were selected as the front-runner (945 points, 43 first-place votes), then Notre Dame (915 points, 35 first-place votes) and the Spartans. In the media poll, Miami was fourth (746 points, two first place votes) and Northern Michigan fifth (700 points, one first-place vote). Ferris State was the consensus sixth-place finisher.

compete with the east
The Spartans opened the 2008-09 season with four straight games against Hockey East competition: the Spartans went 1-1 at the season-opening Icebreaker Tournament, as MSU defeated Massachusetts, 3-1, in the season-opening game, then fell to host Boston University, 2-1, in the championship tilt. In the season's second weekend, the Spartans split a home series against UMass-Lowell.

law of averages
MSU's roster averages: 6-0, 175 lbs., and the average age is 20 years, six months. Among CCHA schools, MSU is one of seven that averages 6-0, the Spartans are the lightest team on average, and are tied with Notre Dame as the second-youngest. (Michigan's roster averages 20 years, five months.)

if it was baseball, we'd win the cy young
MSU has won 20+ games in 16 consecutive seasons, and has won at least 25 in three straight.

national prominence
The Spartans made their 26th NCAA Tournament appearance in 2008 - their third straight selection to the field - and advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals for the third straight season. Just three programs have been in an NCAA regional final in each of the last three seasons - Michigan State, North Dakota, and Boston College.

quite the cluster
Michigan State and Michigan are paired with Miami and Ohio State in the 2008-09 season as clustermates; the schools will all play four times, and face off with the remaining eight schools in the conference twice.
Michigan, Miami, and Michigan State were the top three teams in the CCHA a year ago, and combined for a 91-26-10 record overall; MSU and Miami reached NCAA regional finals, and Michigan advanced to the Frozen Four. Both MSU and Michigan were eliminated in the NCAA Tournament by Notre Dame.
Currently, Miami leads the CCHA with 19 points, Ohio State is tied for fourth, Michigan is tied for seventh, while MSU holds down 10th place with eight points.

strong second halves
During the Rick Comley era, the Spartans have traditionally been a second-half team. The first three months (October, November, December) of his first five seasons (2002-07), the Spartans were a combined 48-43-8 (52.5%), then compiled a 69-33-10 mark in the second half (66.1%). The 2007-08 Spartans had their best first-half record under Comley (12-5-2, 68.4%), and were 13-7-3 in the 2008 portion of the schedule (63%).

strong starts
MSU scored the first goal of the game in 19 of its final 28 games a year ago and in 25 games overall. The Spartans owned a 22-1-2 record when scoring the game's opening tally, and were 3-11-3 when letting their opponent get on the board first. MSU's only loss when netting the first goal of the game came against Providence in the GLI (Dec. 29).
MSU is 3-2-1 this season when netting the game's first goal, and 1-7-2 when allowing its opponent the first strike.

you miss 100% of the shots you don't take
Michigan State has been outshot in nine of its 14 games this season, with its largest shot disparity coming in the Nov. 7 game at Ohio State. The Buckeyes had 49 shots and limited MSU to 21 in the contest. Jeff Lerg made a season-best 46 saves as the Spartans lost the game, 3-0.

a hiccup
The Spartans gave up 25 goals in its last three weekends against Miami, UNO and Minnesota; Michigan State had previously allowed just 18 goals in its first 10 games combined.

seeing the spectrum
MSU now ranks 27th nationally in team defense, averaging 2.69 goals per game; three weeks (and 25 goals )ago, the Spartans were seventh in the country in team defense.
MSU's offensive average of 1.56 goals per game (25 goals in 16 contests) ranks 12th in the CCHA and 56th nationally.

Michigan State's penalty kill is 17th in the latest NCAA statistics, extinguishing 70 of 79 chances against on the season (.886). The Spartans were in the top 10 in all previous weeks of the season, but MSU allowed three PPG in 10 chances against vs. Miami. The Spartans have been perfect on the penalty kill in 10 of 16 games this season.

playing with fire
MSU allowed (and killed off) a season-high nine power play chances against on Friday against Wisconsin, bettering its previous single-game high of eight allowed against Miami on Nov. 15.

pk success is continued success
The Spartans have allowed just nine power-play strikes in 16games, and has allowed more than one in a game just three times in 42 games dating back to last season. MSU's kill was 9-for-10 in last weekend's College Hockey Showcase games against Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Michigan State allowed just seven power play goals in its final 24 games a year ago, and earlier in the season had a streak of 32 consecutive kills over eight games. The kill was 9-for-9 in its two NCAA Tournament games. In those 24 games, the Spartans killed 102 of 109 chances against (93.6%). The penalty kill finished at 87.3 percent for the season (165/189) and ranked seventh nationally. The MSU power play ranked 10th nationally (48/230, 20.9 percent). Dating back to last Feb. 29 (21 games), MSU has killed off 102 of 112 power-play chances against (.911).

scoring woes
MSU's scoring drought - which had reached six goals over seven games - is the most prolific drought in program history. The previous low was eight goals over six games in the 1950 season.

finally, someone else with a sunburn
Michigan State exploded for a single-game high four goals in a tie with Minnesota on Nov. 29. MSU got a pair of goals from Daultan Leveille in the deadlock.