INCH: Maturi on Lucia

     Inside College Hockey reporter and longtime rink rat Jess Myers talked Monday with University of Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi about the future of the school’s coach, Don Lucia. Also, former Gophers defenseman Paul Martin withdrew from the U.S. Olympic team because of a forearm injury that hasn’t healed. First, the INCH update, followed by an Associated Press report on Martin:

Lucia Receives Vote of Confidence From Minnesota AD
By Jess Myers
While admitting that the Golden Gopher men’s hockey results have been less than expected, University of Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi gave his coach a vote of confidence Monday.

“I can tell you that Don Lucia will be coaching Gopher hockey next year unless he chooses not to,” Maturi told InsideCollegeHockey.com.

The Gophers currently stand in seventh place in the 10-team WCHA and are looking likely to miss the NCAA playoffs for a second straight year. The atypical on-ice results, coupled with health problems that led to Lucia missing a few games last season, have led to many questions raised by fans and others in college media circles regarding Lucia’s future. Some have gone as far as to speculate that Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais, a Minnesota alum, would coach the Gophers next season. Maturi acknowledged disappointment with the on-ice results, but said that Lucia has the athletic director’s full confidence.

“I think we’ve got to just take a deep breath and stay the course,” Maturi said. “Nobody’s happy that we’re not winning more. I’m concerned and we’re all concerned. But I’m not concerned about the competencies and talents of Don Lucia.”

Lucia, whose contract with Minnesota runs through 2012, has coached the Gophers to a pair of NCAA titles, two WCHA regular-season titles, and three WCHA Final Five championships in 10 seasons. The Grand Rapids native has a career record of 548-294-76, spending six seasons each at Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado College before coming to Minnesota for the 1999-2000 season. He coached CC to three WCHA titles and two Frozen Four appearances and has been named WCHA coach of the year three times. Lucia’s record at Minnesota is 269-139-47, which includes a 13-13-2 mark this season.

Minnesota, which has lost three of its last four games, is off this weekend before traveling to Denver for a two-game series Feb. 12-13. The Gophers are in Duluth on Feb. 26-27.

Paul Martin withdraws from U.S. Olympic team, By Associated Press

New Jersey Devils defenseman Paul Martin of Elk River, Minn., will not play for the United States in the Vancouver Olympics because of a slow-healing broken left forearm.

A disappointed Martin announced Monday that he was withdrawing his name from the U.S. team.

The defenseman was injured on Oct. 24 in a game at Pittsburgh when he was hit by Bill Guerin’s shot. Martin had a setback in his recovery in December when surgery had to be done because the fracture didn’t heal at the rate doctors wanted.

Martin skated on his own last week and was told by doctors on Monday that he would have to wear his cast another two weeks.

"It is healing properly, it’s just not to the point where the doctor wants to see it," Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

The United States will play its first Olympic game against Switzerland on Feb. 16, which means Martin wouldn’t have been able to play before the Games started.

A replacement will likely be picked by the end of this week, USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said. Potential candidates include Atlanta’s Ron Hainsey, Los Angeles’ Rob Scuderi, Ryan Whitney of the Anaheim Ducks, and Carolina’s Tim Gleason.

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