A.J. Treais knows how to keep his friends close.

His best friend on the U.S. National Development Program Under-18 Team, Kyle Palmieri, lived next door to him last year. The two were nearly inseparable.

But with Treais, a freshman forward on the Michigan hockey team, now in Ann Arbor, and Palmieri playing for Notre Dame, Treais may just learn to keep his enemies closer when the two face off for the first time this weekend.

Treais said the two “chirped” at each other on the phone all week about the upcoming series.

“Him playing on the other side is going to be different,” Treais said. “But it’s not like we’re going to be friends on the ice. … I just have to approach him like another player this week.”

With both the Wolverines (4-6 CCHA, 8-8 overall) and Fighting Irish (4-4-4-2, 7-7-4) limping into this weekend’s series with .500 records, there’s a lot to gain in this home-and-home series — the last series for both teams this semester.

“It’s a big game no matter what the stakes,” sophomore forward Luke Glendening said. “And right now, we’re two .500 teams fighting for better position. These games are as big as any in the season.”

The teams’ records aren’t where the similarities end, either.

They boast two of the best penalty-kill units in college hockey, with Michigan holding the top spot (91.7 percent success rate). The Fighting Irish are only one percentage point behind the Wolverines.

With two teams who are dominant against the man advantage, Michigan coach Red Berenson knows that if Michigan doesn’t capitalize on the few chances it is given, it could be another long weekend.

“We know there’s not going to be much opportunity for points,” Berenson said. “We have to be really sharp on the power play. If you’re lucky, you score one. It’s another game within a game for us.”

As part of the nation’s top penalty kill, Glendening reflects the same sentiment.

“If it comes down to a special teams battle, it’s going to be tough,” Glendening said. “Hopefully we just play five-on-five most of the night.”

Since both teams are so adept at limiting opponents’ opportunities, it’s a surprise to find that neither has turned that proficiency on the penalty kill into their own scoring chances.

Michigan’s offense has improved lately, inching up to 27th in the country in scoring after winning four out of its last five games and notching 18 goals in that span.

But Notre Dame’s offense hasn’t been so lucky.

Ranked seventh-worst in Division-I college hockey, the Fighting Irish managed just one goal against No. 1 Miami (Ohio) and were swept by the RedHawks in convincing fashion.

If Michigan can capitalize on the few scoring chances it will get against Notre Dame, the Wolverines could head into their 16-day break with a plus-.500 record for the first time since sweeping Lake Superior State at the end of October.

A series sweep would give the Wolverines much-needed momentum heading into the break with the Great Lakes Invitational looming at the end of December.

Last year, that’s when Michigan exploded. After last year’s GLI, the Wolverines lost just three regular season games.

“We have sixteen long days of break,” junior defenseman Tristin Llewellyn said. “You don’t want to be thinking you could have, we should have. We want to leave thinking, ‘We did our job, we did everything we could, and we’re setting ourselves up for the next half.’ “

And that’s exactly what Treais hopes to prove to his longtime friend when he comes to Yost Ice Arena on Friday.

“He told me to be ready. I told him to be ready,” Treais said, referencing the friends’ phone conversation this week. “And that’s all it comes to.”

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