Michigan kicks off a two-game series with Michigan State tonight and has issues to address offensively, defensively and in net to end a five-game winless streak (0-4-1), but the Wolverines feel everything can be righted if they just do one thing.
"Play hard," senior alternate captain Derek DeBlois said. "Hockey at its most basic comes down to winning one-on-one battles, and in our last four games, we've been losing those battles. If we start winning more of them, we'll come out on top.
"We have to play stronger in the defensive zone. We need to start putting some pucks in the back of the net, but our No. 1 goal this week is to play with intensity and effort, and to outwork our opponent in every opportunity."
Senior forward Luke Moffatt agreed.
"We haven't played a full 60-minute game since the first half of the season," he said. "We need to play desperate hockey for all three periods, and it has to start as soon as the puck drops because we've been falling behind and that's been putting a lot of pressure on us.
"If we can go out hard, get the first goal and keep attacking after that, it would be huge for us."
Michigan has had 12 days to ruminate over its back-to-back losses at Wisconsin Jan. 10-11, but instead of lamenting over their defeats and the seemingly never-ending breaks from action U-M has endured over the past month, the Wolverines were hard at work during practices to improve their games.
"We've had a great last two weeks of practice," Moffatt said. "Good energy and intensity and we feel prepared for Thursday. Last week the intensity was high but this week there is more purpose because it's Michigan State week."
The coaches dialed up the expectations in practice the past few days to prep the Maize and Blue for MSU, knowing they cannot afford to start slowly.
"We haven't played a game now in the better part of two weeks, since Wisconsin, and you remember how competitive those games were, and we needed our team to bring out the compete level in practice so that we're not surprised," head coach Red Berenson said. "Michigan State played last weekend and we didn't, and we just need to be ready."
The Spartans blanked Michigan 3-0 in the only meeting between the two this season, in a consolation game at the Great Lakes Invitational Dec. 28, and the Maize and Blue are eager to draw even.
"That was the flattest we've been all year," DeBlois said. "The whole GLI, we just didn't show up. That's something that is hard for me to say. We took our opponents too lightly, didn't prepare like we needed to and didn't play with the urgency you have to play with for 60 minutes every game to win.
"I think you'll see a different team, a more determined team this weekend. I'd like to see a 5-0 win to get revenge and for our confidence."
The game tonight begins at 7:00 p.m. and can be seen on Fox Sports Detroit.