Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin is hopeful to have a pair of Nicks — Swaney and Wolff — back this weekend when the team travels to play Nebraska-Omaha at 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Baxter Arena.

It’s the Bulldogs' final series before a two-week holiday break and their last chance to pick up points in the NCHC standings until conference play resumes Jan. 10-11 against Western Michigan at Amsoil Arena.

UMD was swept last week in nonconference play for the second time this season, losing twice at home to No. 1-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato, however, the Bulldogs currently sit second in the NCHC, four points back of league-leading North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks are at Western this weekend, then also away from league play for just over a month.

“We haven’t put ourselves in a good spot nonconference-wise, we’re in a good spot in the conference,” said Sandelin, whose team is three games above .500 in NCHC play at 4-1-1, but two games below .500 outside the league at 3-5. “We’ve got six points staring at us this weekend to try and stay in good position going into the second half.”

Minnesota Duluth junior wing Nick Swaney (23) and Denver's Cole Guttman (19) compete for the puck on Nov. 8 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
Minnesota Duluth junior wing Nick Swaney (23) and Denver's Cole Guttman (19) compete for the puck on Nov. 8 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Swaney, with three goals and five assists in 11 games this year, has missed UMD’s last three games after getting checked from behind head-first into the side wall during the third period of a 4-3 win against Colorado College on Nov. 22 in Duluth. The junior wing is back practicing with the team this week.

Wolff, the senior defenseman and co-captain, was lost two minutes into last weekend’s series against Minnesota State-Mankato with an upper-body injury after being slammed into the end boards. Twice he returned from the locker room to try and play through the injury on Friday, before retreating for a third and final time.

The best words Wolff had to described the hit were “awkward and uncomfortable.” While still not practicing with the team, Wolff said chances are high he’ll be in the lineup this weekend against Omaha.

He doesn’t want to watch another game from the stands.

“It was strange,” Wolff said of the hit. “I got blindsided, I didn’t see him coming. It was just that awkward distance away from the boards. It twisted my body and hit wrong into the boards. It kind of cracked my neck and hurt my sternum.

“That was really tough watching the games. I didn’t want to watch it. … It was giving me the worst anxiety. I just want to get back out there and help the guys out.”

Nick Wolff (5) of Minnesota Duluth checks Jaakko Heikkinen (10) of Denver into the Minnesota Duluth bench during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Clint Austin / Forum News Service
Nick Wolff (5) of Minnesota Duluth checks Jaakko Heikkinen (10) of Denver into the Minnesota Duluth bench during Friday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Clint Austin / Forum News Service