UND is expecting to have its leading scorer back in the lineup for this weekend's showdown against rival Minnesota.

Jake Sanderson, who missed last weekend's series against Minnesota Duluth with an illness, has returned to practice and head coach Brad Berry said the sophomore defenseman will play against the No. 11 Gophers.

"He's been practicing the last couple days," Berry said. "The good part is Jake got into practice early this week with us. It's always tough when you're gone a week. Some guys, you could probably really tell they've been off a week. But with Jake, obviously his conditioning, he's got that back. As far as being sharp, he's been sharp right away. He's going to be in our lineup here and looking to play the minutes he did before he left."

No. 6 UND hosts Minnesota at 7:07 p.m. Friday and 6:07 p.m. Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Sanderson, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators, has a team-leading 15 points in 11 games this season, while posting a team-best plus-13 rating.

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He racked up six points in a two-game sweep of Miami University in his last action on Nov. 12-13 and was named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's defenseman of the week.

But Sanderson came down with an illness late last week and was unable to play against the Bulldogs.

UND gained a series split, losing 4-1 on Friday and winning 2-1 on Saturday.

UND freshman forward Dane Montgomery of Grand Forks will be available to play this weekend, Berry said. Montgomery also was out last weekend with an illness.

The Fighting Hawks (9-4, 5-1 NCHC) will still be without two regulars.

Freshman forward Jackson Kunz, who sustained an upper-body injury on Nov. 13 at Miami, will remain out of the lineup. Kunz missed both games against the Bulldogs. The former Grand Forks Red River player and Vancouver Canucks draft pick had been on UND's fourth line.

Freshman forward Matteo Costantini, who also came down with an illness late last week, has not yet practiced this week and will remain out of the lineup. Costantini, UND's second-line left winger and a Buffalo Sabres draft pick, is currently on a five-game point streak.

"It will probably be one more week before he's back in our lineup here," Berry said. "That's due to doing what we do to make sure players' safety and health comes first. We fully believe he will be available for the St. Cloud series a week from now."

UND standout forward Riese Gaber played through an illness against the Bulldogs. After UND's victory on Saturday night, Berry said he would have to properly manage the players who are dealing with illnesses ahead of the Gopher series.

"With Influenza A going around now and COVID and different things, I think you've got to be smart," Berry said. "We've got three weekends before Christmas break here and I think we've got to make sure we manage our weeks accordingly. I think as coaches we all get tied up on, 'Hey, we've got to uncover every rock to get better and we've got to work on this.' And we do. But at the end of the day, rest and recovery is a big deal. We've got to make sure our guys get it."

After the Minnesota series, UND plays on the road at St. Cloud State and at Colorado College before Christmas break.

Gophers expected to be full strength

Minnesota is expected to be at full strength for the series.

Winnipeg Jets first-round pick Chaz Lucius returned to Minnesota's lineup last weekend after missing six games with an injury.

The Gophers also are expected to get Colorado College transfer Grant Cruikshank back in the lineup for the series. Cruikshank, a senior, hasn't played since Oct. 30, missing the last six games.

Cruikshank is the lone Gopher who has played against UND in Ralph Engelstad Arena. He did it twice during his freshman season and twice as a sophomore as a member of the Tigers. Last season, Cruikshank had appendicitis and missed Colorado College's regular-season series at UND.

No. 11 Minnesota at No. 6 UND

When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.

TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).

Webcast: NCHC.tv.

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

Of note: Minnesota has only played one series in Grand Forks since January 2012. That came on Oct. 20-21, 2017. That series ended in a split.