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Skjei cleared for return as Gophers get close to full strength

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The Minnesota Gopher men's hockey team is getting a little closer to full strength with the news that defenseman Brady Skjei has been cleared to play.

Gophers coach Don Lucia said Wednesday that Skjei has been cleared to play and should return to the lineup this weekend after missing a month because of an upper-body injury.

The Gophers resume Big Ten Conference play this weekend at Michigan.

According to the Star Tribune, the Gophers have only been at full strength for five of their 16 games this season, because of injuries or other reasons. Minnesota was missing four players in its loss to Merrimack on Friday night and was down two players in Saturday's consolation game victory over R-I-T.

But whether or not they get back to full strength to face the Wolverines this week is still a bit of a mystery.

The Star Tribune reports that Collins is considered questionable for the games.

"It just seems like whether it's an illness or an injury or world juniors. ... Leon could play the opening weekend because of the two games he had to sit out. We just haven't had a lot of weeks where we can say this is what our team is going to look like," Lucia said. "So that's something we're going to have to try to develop here in the second half of the year."

The Gophers weren't the only team to lose star players to the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships.

Between Minnesota and Michigan, a total of seven players competed at the World Juniors, including Collins, Hudson Fasching and Leon Bristedt from the Gophers.

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