If you ask NHL scouts, Michigan should have no problem beating Western Michigan in this weekend’s home-and-home series, which beings tonight in Ann Arbor.

Twelve NHL Draft selections pad the Wolverine lineup, including four first-round picks. Just two draftees skate for the Broncos – and both were selected in the seventh and final round.

Although Western Michigan appears to pose a limited challenge to a skilled Michigan squad, senior alternate captain T.J. Hensick knows the contests will be more difficult than the numbers indicate.

“They’re usually tough,” Hensick said. “Last year (when) we played them, we had two injuries in the first five minutes based on hits. It’s really a game that we look forward to playing because of the intensity.”

Adding to Hensick’s fun is the fact that a number of his friends from high school attend the university. His father is a Western Michigan graduate as well. The Howell native’s 13 points in six games versus the Broncos doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of playing them, either.

But despite the “intensity” of the matchups, Michigan (7-2-0 CCHA, 11-4-0 overall) has had the better of the Broncos recently. The Wolverines have won six consecutive games against their conference foe, and no member of their current roster has ever lost to Western Michigan (4-6-1, 5-6-1).

That said, Michigan’s coaching staff is making certain its players don’t look past the Broncos to next week’s series against No. 5 Notre Dame.

“(Western Michigan) always plays us tough,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We know we’re going to get their best games.”

Berenson added that Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo is a particularly difficult place to play. Michigan’s last loss to Western Michigan came at Lawson in January 2003, when the Broncos scored three goals in the final 12 minutes to win, 4-3.

Western Michigan and Michigan are also members of the same conference cluster, which means the teams will meet four total times this season.

All season, Berenson has stressed the importance of doing well within the cluster, and the Wolverines have obliged his urgings, holding a 4-1 record thus far.

When the Broncos arrive in Ann Arbor hoping to win their first game at Yost Ice Arena since 1995, they will see a slightly different Michigan lineup.

One change is the addition of freshman Anthony Ciraulo, who is slated to skate on the fourth line with Brian Lebler and Jason Bailey. Bailey and Lebler’s strength should complement Ciraulo’s quickness nicely.

Ciraulo has been scratched in every game this season, but the coaches have been impressed with his work ethic in practice, especially since he came back from a separated shoulder he suffered in early November.

The Clinton Township native hopes to make the most of his first opportunity, but said he isn’t expecting too much.

“I’m just looking to keep it simple and, hopefully, get two big wins out of this weekend,” Ciraulo said.

Notes: Junior forward Kevin Porter was named the CCHA Player of the Month. The Northville native was Michigan’s leading scorer on the month with eight goals and 10 assists in just nine games. The Wolverines went 7-2-0 over that stretch. Porter is currently riding an 11-game point streak, and his 1.80 points per game rank fourth nationally.

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