All indications are that Michigan forward Brandon Kaleniecki will be back this weekend. And he’s already begun to take the Wolverines on his back – literally.
After practice yesterday, Kaleniecki, who hasn’t played since suffering from a high ankle sprain 10 days ago against Northern Michigan, took a loose puck in on backup goaltender Noah Ruden and slid the puck between the goalie’s legs. But Kaleniecki fell as he was shooting, and Ruden decided to jump on his back rather than push the puck aside.
It was a light moment that must have looked good to the Wolverines, who will undoubtedly benefit if their second-leading goal scorer is back for the trip to Nebraska. Kaleniecki was injured when Northern Michigan goalie Craig Kowalski landed on the freshman’s back in the first game of the Feb. 7-8 series.
No one will benefit more from his return more than his linemate, Andrew Ebbett. The two have combined to be one of Michigan’s most consistent pairings this season and one of the only groupings to play together all season.
“I think I (missed him) a little bit, just because of the chemistry,” Ebbett said. “We’ve had a pretty good chemistry out there so far this year.”
The freshman’s return is not guaranteed. He said yesterday, after his first regular practice with the team, that he still felt some discomfort on the ice, mainly stopping and starting.
“There’s obviously some things that I still don’t feel comfortable doing,” Kaleniecki said. “But hopefully it will get better as the week goes on.”
Kaleniecki was especially frustrated having to watch his first Michigan-Michigan State game from the sidelines this past weekend. The Livonia native had seen a number of games between the rivals at Joe Louis Arena growing up.
Michigan assistant coach Billy Powers said that he could see improvement in Kaleniecki when he skated on Saturday before Michigan’s game in East Lansing.
“I would tell you that even Saturday, if that’s a playoff game, a Joe Louis game or an NCAA game, I think he probably could have played,” Powers said.
If he does play, Kaleniecki is aware he might have some rust to shake off.
“I’m sure it’s going to take a little bit of time coming back,” Kaleniecki said. “It’s going to be a little bit tougher, so we’ll see how it goes.”