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The Lincoln Stars have had their own problems all season — this weekend they'll add one more against the highly talented Jack Hughes and Team USA U18's.

Hughes is already projected to be the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on June 21-22 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Many mock drafts have four Team USA players being picked in the top 10 from the U18 and U17 squads.

"We prepare for (Team USA) to a certain extent like we do everybody else," Stars coach Cody Chupp said. "I think everybody has the ability to capitalize on your mistakes — this team, more so. Their high skill is elite, and that will be evident when we get to the NHL Draft in June."

The U18's have two reigning USHL players of the week. Cole Caufield took home the offensive honor with four goals and one assist in Team USA's 11-0 victory over Madison last Friday. Domenick Fensore took home the defensive player of the week honor, adding a goal and assist in Friday's contest.

"Their ability to capitalize and to capitalize quickly on your mistakes is impressive," Chupp said. "For us (preparing), it's not really a whole lot different. Obviously we have to be aware when Hughes and his line are out there, because they can score in bunches and score in bunches quickly."

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Caufield leads the U18's with 18 goals and 11 assists in 20 games played, while Hughes has tallied six goals and 20 assists in 16 games.

Despite falling twice to the Omaha Lancers last Friday and Saturday and riding a 12-game losing streak, the Stars (10-33-6) are still up for the challenge against some of the league's top talent.

"They have some great players, but I think we just need to play our game and stick to our systems," Stars forward Ryan Doolin said. "Make sure we aren't giving them any free offense.

"They are so skilled and so fast, but they obviously don't want to spend a lot of time in their own end. If we can sustain offense in their own end for three, four, five shifts at a time, they are going to get frustrated." 

The Stars and Team USA play a two-game set beginning Friday at 7 p.m. at the Ice Box.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7431 or tgray@journalstar.com.

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