Grant Standbrook has been preparing for his moment in the spotlight Friday night.
"I guess I have to drop a puck," he said. "I've been practicing it the last two days. I've been dropping pucks in my living room. My dog catches them before they hit the floor."
Standbrook, who spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach to Bob Johnson and Jeff Sauer with the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team, is the honorary captain for the Badgers' game against No. 3 Ohio State on Friday at the Kohl Center (7 p.m., FSW+, 1310 AM).
Only two people have been a UW assistant for longer: Bill Howard (25 years) and Mike Kemp (14 years). And there's no disputing Standbrook's influence on the Badgers program from when he started after returning with Johnson from the 1976 Olympics until his contract wasn't renewed in 1987.
Just ask the two current Badgers hockey coaches, who played at either end of that period.
"He was ahead of his time," said women's coach Mark Johnson, who played for the Badgers from 1976 to 1979. "I go back to 1977. We're getting ready for our national tournament over in Detroit, and Grant's got a big room in the hotel, and it's an area where the team can stretch as a group. And he'd turn the lights down. It was almost like what we call yoga today, and we're doing that back in 1977."
Granato played under Standbrook and Sauer from 1983 to 1987.
"All of us that were lucky enough to have him as a coach, he helped us in some way, shape or form," Granato said. "I still call him. He still watches our games for us. I call him and ask him questions all the time. He points out things from the TV that he sees that help me in what we're trying to do.
"He's a great man, he's a mentor and I'm really looking forward to having him in town this week. And hopefully we'll give him a special night as well."
Standbrook, 81, won three national championships during his time at UW and said he has nothing but wonderful memories, from the success the team had to his three children all attending UW-Madison.
He had one regret: Missing the chance to win three straight titles by losing to North Dakota in the 1982 final after sweeping the Sioux in Grand Forks two weeks earlier. UW won the 1981 and 1983 championships, the former under Johnson and the latter under Sauer.
"The wins and everything are important," Standbrook said. "The memories are important. But the most important thing to me are the relationships. I just looked at the players as my own children and treated them the same way. They were just an extended part of my family. And that's the way it continued at Maine, too."
Standbrook was an assistant at Maine from 1988 to 2008, finishing as a volunteer assistant before entering that school's athletics hall of fame in 2017.
His work with recruiting and in scouting and breaking down opponents on video is legendary in the game.
"You can look at the players that he recruited to our school and what he taught them while we were here," Granato said. "And, in my case, and I've said this over and over, for an assistant coach, the one-on-one stuff that he was able to teach me on things that I could implement in a game immediately was amazing."
Caught on video
Badgers defenseman Josh Ess previews the Badgers' series against Ohio State:
Three more things
• The Badgers get a chance against the Buckeyes to show that they've progressed since being swept — and badly — in Columbus in November. UW went six games without a loss after that weekend but has just one win in eight games in 2019. "With the Big Ten, that's the best part: You get two series against the teams," UW senior right wing Will Johnson said. "So if you have a series you don't like at the beginning, you have that fire to beat them."
• The Badgers' struggles in the first game of a series and success in the second goes beyond just the record (2-9-2 first, 7-3-3 second). Their goals for (2.3 vs. 3.8), goals against (4.2 vs. 2.5), shots on goal (30.5 vs. 35.3) and even-strength shot attempts (60.3 vs. 64.1) all show gaps between the first game and the second game.
• Ohio State is starting to pull away at the top of the Big Ten standings, with an eight-point lead over second-place Minnesota and two games in hand. The Badgers are in sixth place, two points behind the fourth-place tie of Michigan and Michigan State, with UW holding two games in hand over the Spartans and one over the Wolverines.
Put it in quotes
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Granato, on what his team needs to do to flip close losses to close victories:
"I think the one thing we have to get better in that's been the difference-maker in probably most of those games is our penalty kill hasn't stepped up. Lots of factors go into that. I think that if we can get that part of our game to be more consistent and solid, it will give us a much better chance of having better results."
Here's the projected Badgers lineup for Friday:
Jack Gorniak - Seamus Malone - Will Johnson
Roman Ahcan - Tarek Baker - Sean Dhooghe
Linus Weissbach - Dominick Mersch - Brock Caufield
Max Zimmer - Mick Messner - Matthew Freytag
Extra forward: Jarod Zirbel
Wyatt Kalynuk - Tyler Inamoto
K'Andre Miller - Ty Emberson
Josh Ess - Peter Tischke
Starting goaltender: Daniel Lebedeff
Badgers defenseman Ty Emberson has been a physical force over the past few weeks.
Here's our series preview.
Ahead of the No. 10 jersey retirement ceremony Saturday, 10 of Mark Johnson's peers offer their thoughts on what made him such a special player.
UW's Jake Bunz and Annie Pankowski were named finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.
A rise in the number of shots on goal per game hasn't brought the Badgers much in the results category.
USCHO's Paula C. Weston writes about the Badgers' Friday/Saturday disparity.
College Hockey News' Adam Wodon caught up with Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik.