Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
LOS ANGELES — This time last season the Wild were a middling team in the Central Division — 12-8-4 on Dec. 5, 2016 — when they started an epic 12-game winning streak that changed the course of the season. As of Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 5, exactly 365 days later, the Wild were in pretty much the very same spot, 13-10-3 heading into a matchup with the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center.
MINNEAPOLIS — Ryan Murphy's heart dropped last weekend when he learned he would be called up from the minors — and not because the 24-year-old defenseman was sad to be leaving the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League. "After the game my heart dropped when they asked me if I had my passport," Murphy explained. "You know, that's kind of an unwritten rule that we're always supposed to bring our passport on the road."
ST. PAUL—There's something to be said about being comfortable, and after Nate Prosser's past few days, perhaps putting on a familiar uniform was just what he needed. Prosser, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman from Elk River, Minn., was back on the ice with the Wild on Friday morning, Dec. 1, after being claimed off waivers from the St. Louis Blues about 24 hours earlier. He sported his typical smile, and as he joked around with his teammates before the start of practice it was almost like he never left.
ST. PAUL — After having back surgery five weeks ago, Zach Parise still has a long way to go in the recovery process. He won't even set a timeline on his return to the Wild lineup at this point, though he took his first step Wednesday, Nov. 29, skating for the first time since having a herniated disk removed. "I feel good," Parise said Thursday morning after his second straight day on the ice. "It's still pretty basic skating stuff out there that we're doing. It feels really good, though."
ST. PAUL — Even general manager Chuck Fletcher has grown tired of watching the Wild play, especially in the wake of a 7-2 beatdown at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, Nov 27. Fletcher's take on his team so far: "incredibly disappointing." That might be an understatement considering the Wild (11-10-3, 25 points) are second to last in the Central Division with the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights (15-6-1) in town to play Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.
ST. PAUL — Give coach Bruce Boudreau credit. He was was able to get through Monday Nov. 27's postgame news conference in Winnipeg, Man., without blowing a gasket. In a similar situation in March, the Wild coach cut his comments short after a 5-4 loss to the Jets that started with a 4-0 first-period deficit. After one question, Boudreau declared, "That's all, I'm done."
ST. PAUL — It's been a little more than seven months since the Wild had their playoff hopes dashed by the St. Louis Blues in the first round, and no, they haven't forgotten about it. "We have had that game circled on the calendar," Chris Stewart said. "I know the boys are going to be excited about it." While revenge will more than likely be on the minds of some players, the Saturday, Nov. 25, game between the two teams at the Scottrade Center is about a lot more than what happened last season.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn't satisfied with the subpar special teams performance in Thursday's victory at Detroit, and while kicker Kai Forbath seems like the obvious guy to absorb blame, he was absolved of guilt on Friday, Nov. 24. Forbath had a PAT blocked in the first quarter and a 53-yard field goal deflected in the third quarter of a 30-23 victory over the Lions at Ford Field, but coach Mike Zimmer was looking elsewhere. "I don't think it was really the kicker," he said. "He didn't really get an opportunity."
MINNEAPOLIS — It seems Case Keenum has finally done enough to get coach Mike Zimmer to completely change his tune. While the Vikings' coach still won't flat-out name Keenum the No. 1 quarterback for the rest of the season, he has named him the starter for next Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons. Asked during the Friday, Nov. 24, news conference whether Keenum has solidified himself as the starter moving forward, Zimmer responded, "He will be the starter next week."
ST. PAUL — After another subpar performance in Monday's 4-3 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils at the Xcel Energy Cetner, the Wild sent slumping rookies Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin to the minors before practice on Tuesday, Nov. 21. "We just think those guys need a little bit of confidence," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You know, get a chance to play the power play, get a chance to play 22 or 23 minutes a night."