Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
PHILADELPHIA—Vikings return specialist Marcus Sherels made sure not to throw away his shot in last Sunday's victory over the New Orleans Saints. Sherels aggressively fielded a punt in the first quarter with not a lot of room to work, made a couple of guys miss, and raced up the right sideline for nearly 20 yards before being slammed to the turf by Saints punter Thomas Morstead, who injured his ribs making the tackle.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander wouldn't go as far as daring the Philadelphia Eagles to throw at him this weekend. Still, the 24-year-old, second-year pro remained confident despite the fact that he's probably considered the weakest link in an uber-talented group of cornerbacks that features a shutdown corner in Xavier Rhodes, an emerging playmaker in Trae Waynes and a savvy veteran in Terence Newman. "It's a team sport," Alexander said. "If they come at me, my team expects me to win."
ST. PAUL — With the Xcel Energy Center Bowl lower bowl less than half full on Sunday — thousands of fans still huddled around TVs in the concourse, soaking in the moments before Stefon Diggs' miracle touchdown reception that lifted the Vikings into the NFC Championship Game — the Wild and Canucks took the ice for a game that felt rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Then? Madness.
MINNEAPOLIS — Shirtless at his locker following practice Friday, Jan. 12, Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon let everyone know that he has a bone to pick. "Every time I turn around I feel like all I'm hearing about is the Saints," McKinnon barked. "Like I said, they're a good team, they've done a lot of really good things this season, and they've had a lot of success. They deserve (the attention). ... I just feel like it's all been about the Saints."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — After two weeks of preparation, the only thing left for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer to do is wait. That means he'll be content to curl up by the fire in his Twin Cities home and relax until Sunday, Jan. 14, right? Not exactly. "I don't know that I have moments of zen," Zimmer said with a laugh. "I have moments of nervousness sitting in the locker room before the game."
ST. PAUL — Wild coach Bruce Boudreau had a full lineup at his disposable for all of two games before Nino Niederreiter aggravated his lingering lower-body injury earlier this week. "Back to the drawing board," Boudreau said before Minnesota's 2-1 victory over the Blackhawks in Chicago on Tuesday. Not that he's making an excuses for his team, which as of Thursday, Jan. 11, held the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference despite a mediocre first half.
CHICAGO — Eric Staal continues to prove the doubters wrong. A couple of seasons after many wrote him off, the 33-year-old forward from Thunder Bay, Canada, was selected Wednesday, Jan. 10, to represent the Wild in the NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 28 in Tampa, Fla. It's the fifth all-star selection of his 14-season NHL career and his first since serving as captain of the 2011 game in Raleigh, N.C.. Staal has scored at least one goal in each All-Star Game appearance, and was named MVP of the 2008 game in Atlanta when he had two goals and an assist.
ST. PAUL — With the NHL announcing All-Star Game rosters on Wednesday, Eric Staal is feeling a little extra pressure. While the humble 33-year-old would never campaign for a spot in annual showcase, he has had a little extra motivation to let his play do the talking. "My kids are a little older now where they understand," Staal said with a smile. "So, I'm getting a little bit more pressure from them at home."
ST. PAUL — With the first half of the season officially in the record books, for Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, one word comes to mind when thinking about the 41 he team has played. "Inconsistency," Boudreau said. "Not being able to get any traction where we go through a 10-game segment 8-1-1. Those are the things that go through my head every day." Sure, the Wild have been up and down through the first half of the season with injuries obviously playing a major role.
ST. PAUL — Perhaps it's fitting that as Tyler Ennis seems to have rediscovered his game, the Wild winger's former team is in town to see firsthand what it traded away last offseason. Acquired with Marcus Foligno from the Buffalo Sabres on June 30, Ennis was viewed as a throw-in to make the salaries match, He had played only 74 games over the previous two seasons, and it was easy to forget Ennis was was three-time 20-goal scorer before injuries threatened to derail a once-promising career.