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Learn more about the Wisconsin Badgers' 2020-21 men's hockey opponents
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Learn more about the Wisconsin Badgers' 2020-21 men's hockey opponents

From the Get ready for Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey season with State Journal's in-depth coverage series
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The teams that win regular-season championships in NCAA hockey tend to be the ones that can adapt to changing landscapes over a long season.

That figures to be especially true this season, when the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic can be around every corner.

In the Big Ten Conference, protocols and restrictions to confront the coronavirus will change the dynamic of what already is expected to be a tight race, coaches said.

Home-ice advantages based on raucous fans and bands might not mean as much without typical attendance. Schedules are partially off the traditional weekend track.

Player availability has always been subject to health, but that term has expanded to include the coronavirus. A minimum 21-day layoff for players who are confirmed to test positive for COVID-19 could make for major lineup shake-ups.

The pandemic-delayed Big Ten season that opens Friday when the University of Wisconsin plays at No. 20 Notre Dame will test teams' ability to handle whatever comes their way on and off the ice.

"Whether it be not having crowds in the building, whether it's the manipulation of your lineup just based on who's healthy and who's not, I think that whoever does handle that adversity the best is going to have an advantage," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said.

Patience isn't always in great supply among coaches but it's a must this season.

"As soon as you think you have everything under control, the next day things change," Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik said.

Still, Minnesota coach Bob Motzko said hockey has a good chance to be successful once the season gets started and players are in their routines.

"We've learned," he said. "We're all talking to other coaches. We're all talking around the country. Our players are. I think there's a path for us to get this thing in."

Here's a look at Badgers opponents in the 2020-21 season with games scheduled through Dec. 9. Games against Arizona State, which is playing four times at each Big Ten team, don't count toward the standings. The second half of the regular-season slate will be announced later.

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