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."
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.
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.
ST. PAUL — Two days after Zach Parise made his highly anticipated season debut, Nino Niederreiter is slated to return from a lower-body injury during Thursday, Jan. 4's game against the Buffalo Sabres. It will mark the first time all season the Wild are at full strength, meaning coach Bruce Boudreau has some difficult decisions to make on a nightly basis.
ST. PAUL — A couple of months ago, Wild prospect Jordan Greenway was trying his best not to think about the 2018 Winter Olympics. "I don't think I've played as well as I've wanted to here in the first few games of the season," Greenway said in early November. "I still have a couple of months to show them what I can do. I do think I could play in the Olympics, for sure."
ST. PAUL—Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise will make make his highly-anticipated season debut during the Tuesday, Jan. 2, game against the Florida Panthers. "All looks good," Parise said with a smile after Monday's practice. "I've got the green light." It will serve as a culmination for Parise, who hasn't played this season after finally deciding to bite the bullet and undergo back surgery 2 1/2 months ago.