Junior forward Kevin Lynch isn’t sure how his injury occurred. Neither is Michigan coach Red Berenson.
One thing is certain — sometime before the No. 5 Michigan hockey team’s first exhibition game against the Ontario Institute of Technology on Oct. 1, Lynch tweaked his back. It could have happened in practice, or maybe he aggravated it in the weight room.
Whatever the cause, Lynch didn’t recover from it as quickly as he or Berenson had hoped.
“(Lynch) was feeling better after a day or so (but) he tried it and it was no good,” Berenson said. “He played in the game against Ontario, and it was really sore the next night.”
Berenson said back spasms are so excruciating that it makes something as simple as tying shoes painful. With a prognosis like that, there was little chance Lynch was going to make an appearance when Michigan (3-0) played Bentley last Friday.
He didn’t, and since then, the shuffling of the forward lines has been like a game of musical chairs. On Friday, freshman forward Alex Guptill took Lynch’s place in the first line along with senior forwards Luke Glendening and David Wohlberg.
Wohlberg moved from his regular position on the wing to center. Although Wohlberg claimed not to have too much difficulty adjusting to the change, Berenson still wasn’t pleased with the line chemistry.
“Wohlberg’s line wasn’t having that good of a game,” Berenson said after the game on Friday. “I’m kind of handcuffing Wohlberg when I put him at center. To throw him in there once in a while is tough on him.”
So Berenson switched it up before the third period. Wohlberg went back to his more familiar spot on the wing, and freshman forward Travis Lynch took Guptill’s place. Playing wing to junior forward Jeff Rohrkemper’s center, Travis tallied two assists, setting up goals for Glendening and senior defenseman Greg Pateryn.
After Friday, Berenson believed it was a “definite possibility,” that Kevin Lynch would play in the second game of the series. But the second game came and went, and once again, Travis was the only Lynch on the ice.
As far as Kevin is concerned, Berenson expects him to play in Thursday’s game against St. Lawrence. Lynch been skating in practice this week, but Berenson won’t make a decision regarding Lynch’s status until after Wednesday’s practice.
“If I get a good feel (about Lynch) and he can skate hard, then he’ll play Thursday,” Berenson said after practice on Monday. “When you get (back spasms), you just can’t skate hard. We need him to skate hard if he’s going to play.”
But even if Kevin is primed to play on Thursday, there’s no guarantee he’ll even return to his original line. For now, Berenson seems pleased with the Glendening-Travis Lynch-Wohlberg combination and may not want to make changes after the trio registered five points over the weekend.
Berenson is also anxious to give freshman forward Andrew Sinelli playing time, especially since Sinelli has not seen game action since an Oct. 3 exhibition against the US National Team Development Program due to an injury sustained before the season.
Kevin’s return would not only potentially rearrange the first line but also the subsequent ones.
“If (Kevin) comes in, that means someone comes out,” Berenson said. “It could change one line, and it could change two lines.
“You’re going to see changes from week-to-week depending on injuries, who’s playing well, and who we want to get back in the lineup.”