Its hard to believe that two teams from the same conference havent played in four years, but thats the reality these days with unbalanced schedules, expansion and realignment.For the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans and the No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers, this weekends meeting at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., will be the first since 2012. There is hardly anyone around the Big Ten that will be complaining about the fact the once-budding rivalry gets a chance to be rekindled.Prior to the hiatus, the Badgers and Spartans were busy playing in some of the most exciting games with some fairly important consequences. In 2011 alone, the teams met twice with the Spartans winning the regular season on a 44-yard Hail Mary from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol on the final play of the game for a 37-31 victory.A few weeks later, the Badgers got the last laugh when they beat the Spartans in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game behind the play of quarterback Russell Wilson. It was a back-and-forth battle that wasnt decided until Michigan States punt return inside the Wisconsin five in the final two minutes was negated by a running into the kicker penalty.The year before, Michigan State beat Wisconsin, 34-24, with a late fourth-down touchdown pass from Cousins to B.J. Cunningham sealing the deal. There was controversy at the end of the season when the Badgers got the nod for the Rose Bowl over the Spartans despite identical records and MSU holding the head-to-head advantage.Back then, Paul Chryst was Wisconsins offensive coordinator. Now the Badgers head coach, Chryst remembers those matchups fondly.I always felt going into those game, Heres a really good football team with good players and well coached, Chryst said of Michigan State. It was a good football team and you knew it and the kids knew it. It was fun to play those games because you knew you had to be on and you knew youd be challenged. I think we knew each other well.I think what it was mostly, or as much was those games meant something.It will mean something again this time as Michigan State (2-0) and Wisconsin (3-0) are both ranked in the top 11.The Spartans (2-0) are riding high after last weeks win over Notre Dame and relish the chance to get off on the right foot in the conference against a highly ranked opponent.You should get excited for the opportunity, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. I think the storylines around it -- being the Big Ten opener, the history with Wisconsin, the fact that of where were at as a program right now, where theyre at -- it all points towards this being a very, very big game, probably bigger than last week. No doubt bigger than last week.Its bigger because a loss in the Big Ten can make it much tougher to get to the conference championship game. Thats especially true for Michigan State, which must get the best of Ohio State and Michigan in the East Division, though Wisconsin has no easy road, either. After taking on the Spartans, the Badgers get Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska in successive weeks.That means theres little margin for error beginning this week.I think the out-of-conference schedule is just what it is, Dantonio said. You can lose them, still recover and play and win a Big Ten championship. You start playing a little bit more for real I think in terms of understanding that these are the things that lead you to rings, big bowl games, playoffs, those type of things.When youre playing in-conference, you get into your division, the chips just get a little bit bigger. But thats the way its always been here. The more you win, the higher the chips get, the more its on every single game. Its just the nature of it.Michigan State will play for the bigger stakes with an offense that is riding high while Wisconsin (3-0) comes in with plenty of questions.The Badgers have had trouble scoring consistently and could be without senior running back Corey Clement (ankle) for a second straight game. And Chryst hasnt committed to a starting quarterback after replacing fifth-year senior Bart Houston in the second half against Georgia State with redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook.Both have to be ready to play, to be sure, Chryst said. Im positive of that. Both have to go. I told them there are going to be games where theyre both going to play.We need both of them to keep growing and go for us. Ill let the week determine all this stuff, with whos going to play running back, whos going to play left guard, whos going to play quarterback, whos going to play receiver, whos going to be the nickel corner. 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"Hes going to have hip surgery on Jan. 7, and hell be expected to rehabilitate for four to six months beyond that," Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said Friday in an interview. LOS ANGELES -- With Blake Griffin hurt again, the Los Angeles Clippers will try to absorb his absence as they begin a three-game homestand Tuesday night against the Denver Nuggets.Griffin is scheduled to undergo a minor arthroscopic procedure on Tuesday to remove loose bodies in his right knee. Griffin, who has been hurting for several games, is expected to be out three to six weeks.The five-time All-Star leads the team in scoring at 21.2 points per game. He also is collecting an average of 8.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists.It is the second consecutive season injuries are sidelining Griffin. Last season, he sat out 45 games with a quad ailment and a broken hand, the latter of which was sustained during an altercation with a team trainer. He aggravated the quad again in last seasons playoffs when the Clippers were eliminated in the opening round by the Portland Trail Blazers.Griffin scored 26 points in the Clippers 117-110 loss to the Washington Wizards on Sunday. He also had seven rebounds and seven assists. However, after the game, a decision was made for him to have surgery.Griffins loss occurs at a time when the Clippers arent playing their best. The defeat at Washington left Los Angeles (20-8) with a 6-6 mark since roaring out of the gate with a 14-2 record. The Wizards shot 80 percent from the floor in a decisive fourth quarter to snap the Clippers four-game winning streak.Before winning four straight, the Clippers dropped five of seven contests. Defense, which had been one of the teams hallmarks early on, is failing the Clippers.I think us as a team, weve got to tallk about it because weve lost confidence in our defense, point guard Chris Paul, who had 13 points and 12 assists against the Wizards, told the Los Angeles Times.dddddddddddd And I think a lot of that starts with me, being on the ball. But no way should we have lost this game.The Nuggets (12-16) are coming off a 117-107 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. Nikola Jokic tied a career high with 27 points to go with 14 rebounds and nine assists as the Nuggets claimed their third consecutive victory.Jokics near triple-double came a week after he scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the 20-point loss in Dallas. A missed 3-pointer by point guard Emmanuel Mudiay in the final minute kept Jokic from reaching 10 assists Monday.It doesnt really matter, Jokic said of falling short of the triple-double. The game is more important than your name.An abundance of offense is the name of the game for the Nuggets. They are averaging 125.3 points during their streak. For the season, Denver is scoring 107.4 points per contest, which ranks seventh in the NBA. However, the Nuggets are allowing 109.4 points (26th).The Clippers are averaging 109.6 points per game, fifth best in the league. On defense, Los Angeles is giving up 101.6 points. Although that ranks eighth, those numbers have risen from the hot start when the Clippers were frequently holding opponents under 100 points per game.The Clippers won five of their past six meetings with the Nuggets. ' ' '