DENVER -- Grant Mismash was once feared lost for the season.

After Mismash suffered a knee injury in a collision with St. Cloud State captain Jimmy Schuldt in late January, UND head coach Brad Berry wasn’t optimistic that he would get the second-round NHL draft pick back this season.

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But Mismash is back at just the right time. He re-entered the lineup last weekend after missing a month and a half. Mismash played just a few minutes last Friday against Omaha and was held out Saturday, but it was a step in the right direction.

“I feel good,” Mismash said. “My leg is still a little weak, but it’s in game shape. I’m excited to play two or three games this weekend, depending on how many we play. I’m a full go. (My knee) isn’t fully there yet, but it’s good enough to go.

“I didn’t get a whole lot of minutes (against Omaha). I wasn’t expected to play a lot. Obviously, when you sit on the bench for six minutes, it can stiffen up a little bit, but that’s part of it. I feel good. I had a couple of good scoring chances. Obviously, I didn’t score on any of them, but I was just excited to get back on the ice with the guys.”

Berry said Mismash will be back in the lineup tonight against Denver, and he expects the forward’s role to increase as UND’s season is on the line in a best-of-three National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoff series against the Pioneers (8:08 p.m. Central, Magness Arena).

“He’s getting there,” Berry said. “I’m not going to lie, putting him in last week, he just came off of six weeks of hardly doing anything, just recuperating his knee there. He skated a little bit that week. We wanted to get him in. I think it was a boost to our team. I think it was a boost to him. He’s had a good week of practice. He’ll get more minutes on Friday night. He will play Friday and he’ll get more minutes.”

UND hopes that can provide a spark offensively against a stout defensive team in the Pioneers. The Fighting Hawks managed just two goals in two games against Denver in an early February series in Magness Arena.

“I don’t know if I’ll get a lot more minutes, but I’ll definitely be inserted into the lineup and maybe will work in a few more shifts,” Mismash said. “We’ll see how the game goes. If coach Berry wants to play me more, he can play me more. I’ll be ready whatever the case is. I’m excited for the weekend.”

Mismash said there was one benefit to being out for six weeks.

“I think just appreciating the game and being able to take some time off,” Mismash said. “Obviously, I didn’t want to. But it’s good to reflect back and appreciate how much I miss the game and soak in every single second I get here when I’m healthy. . . just take advantage of it when I’m healthy. I’d say that’s the biggest thing I got out of it. Having to watch the guys play hockey and stay back when they were on the road, it was pretty lonely and tough. Sometimes, you’ve got to go through those things.”

FIRST TO SIX

The winner of this weekend’s series will be the only NCHC team to make all six Frozen Faceoffs.

UND and Denver are the only teams in the league to go five-for-five in first-round series since the inception of the league in 2014, but one of those streaks will come to an end this weekend.

Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State have each made it three times, while Miami and Western Michigan have made it twice. Colorado College and Omaha have yet to make it to the Frozen Faceoff.

UND, currently sitting at No. 18 in the Pairwise Rankings, needs to advance out of this weekend to keep its season alive.

“It’s playoff hockey,” Berry said. “It’s a different season. Slates are blank right now. We’ve been playing playoff hockey the last couple of months. We know we have no lives after this. We’re going to leave everything on the table. Guys are excited for this.

“We see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been a long season. It’s been a grind. Guys are excited about playing playoff hockey right now. This is a fun time of  year. I’m not saying the rest of the season isn’t fun, but this is the fun time of the season.”

EVERYONE ON TRIP

Because it’s the postseason and there’s not a travel roster restriction, UND brought everyone on the trip to Denver, including two players who have been ruled out for this weekend’s series -- forward Joel Janatuinen (undisclosed) and goalie Adam Scheel (knee).

NCHC QUARTERFINALS

  • Who: UND at Denver.
  • When: 8:08 p.m. Friday, 8:08 p.m. Saturday and 7:08 p.m. Sunday (if necessary).
  • Where: Magness Arena, Denver.
  • TV/radio: Midco Sports Network (GF Ch. 27/622 HD); The Fox (96.1 FM).
  • Webcast: NCHC.tv.
  • Records: UND 18-15-2 (No. 5 seed), Denver 19-10-5 (No. 4 seed).
  • Of note: UND needs to win this series to keep its season alive.