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Penn State Hockey Preview: No. 16 Nittany Lions at Michigan State

To East Lansing the Nittany Lions go.

Jennifer Hoffman/Along the Boards
Who: Michigan State Spartans
When: Friday 7 p.m. ET, Saturday 7 p.m. ET
Where: Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, MI
Stream: Audio: Fri+Sat Video: Plus ($) Fri+Sat
Live Stats:

It's been just over two months since No. 16 Penn State (17-8-3) last came face to face with the Michigan State Spartans (7-19-2). In that time span, the Spartans have collected just four wins while Penn State has made a stronger and stronger case for a berth in the NCAA tournament in just a few months time.

The last time these two teams faced each other, it was the Nittany Lions first Big Ten conference game of the season as they swept the Spartans by a combined score of 10-3 on home ice. With just one win in their last five games, a weekend against the second worst team in the conference might be just what Penn State needs to find their groove heading into the final month of regular season play.

That being said, Michigan State did just come away with a pretty energizing weekend split against No. 6 Michigan after a 3-2 overtime win did in a team Penn State had a lot of trouble matching up against. Despite the clearly weaker team than the last few opponents Penn State has faced, the Nittany Lions should be wary of letting their guard down against the Spartans this late in the year.

Getting To Know The Spartans

We last left Michigan State in the midst of low offensive production. Since, they've scored three or more goals just six times in their last 14 games. They've compensated more with better goaltending, but their offense is certainly the weakest Penn State has seen over the last couple of weeks.

Junior Mackenzie MacEachern now leads the Spartans with 21 points while holding the position of the only Michigan State player to hit double digits in goals. Behind MacEachern is senior Michael Ferrantino, who has risen up the Spartans ranks with 19 points, tying for second on the team alongside freshman Mason Appleton. The freshman, however, leads the Spartans with 15 assists, though Appleton has slowed down as of late with just six points since the Nittany Lions last saw him.

In net, Jake Hildebrand has had a bit of a tough time now that he's primarily facing opponents from the Big Ten. His save percentage has dipped below .900 while his GAA has gone up to 3.25, starting all but one of Michigan State's games so far this season. The heavy workload has clearly taken its toll on the senior, who's played 1569:02 minutes of hockey this year for the 11th highest mark in the NCAA.

One thing Michigan State does have going for them is their penalty kill, which is eighth best in the country at an 85.4 percent clip. Penn State has thrived on the power play this season, so don't be surprised if their special teams unit takes a bit of a hit facing one of the top ten teams in the country on the penalty kill.