Wild’s Eric Staal heating up after slow start

Eric Staal, Wild forward (↑ UP)

Held scoreless through eight games to start the season, Staal has come on strong over the past week and change. He’s up to four goals and two assists in his past four games after adding a goal and an assist during the Wild’s 6-3 loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. The 6-foot-4 center muscled Nick Caamano off the puck in the corner early in the first period, before dishing it to Jason Zucker to get the Wild on the board. He was back at it on the power play with just over two minutes to play in the period, going five-hole on a nifty feed from Mats Zuccarello.

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Karl-Anthony Towns, Wolves center (↑ UP)

KAT has long boasted that this year’s Wolves aren’t to be slept on. Through three games, the leader of the pack is doing his part. Towns was named the Western Conference Player of the Month on Monday after posting the following: 32.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3.0 steals, 2.0 blocks per game with a 64.8 eFG%. He’s averaging 5.0 3s per game on nearly 10 attempts after hitting seven in the season opener, leading the Wolves to an overtime win at Brooklyn despite a 50-point effort from Kyrie Irving.

Andrew Wiggins, Wolves forward (↑ UP)

Wiggins took matters into his own hands during the closing minutes of the Wolves’ win over Miami on Sunday. He scored 16 points during the final six minutes of the game, making four 3s after missing on his first six tries from deep. Wiggins went on an 11-point run of his own to put a bow on things, one of the most clutch performances in Wolves history.

Alex Stalock, Wild goalie (↓ DOWN)

Burned twice by own goals Tuesday, Stalock was under siege in the third period, as the Stars out-shot the Wild 18-6 in the final frame. Alexander Radulov got Dallas on the board late in the second period with an impressive play, while Roope Hintz cut the lead to 3-2 early in the third. The next two goals went in off Stalock’s teammates, however, deflecting in off Jordan Greenway and Jonas Brodin. There was little Stalock could do on the fifth either, after a turnover in the defensive zone led to an easy tap in for Tyler Seguin.

Rodney Smith, Gophers running back (↑ UP)

The Gophers are up to No. 13 in the AP poll after improving to 8-0 with a 52-10 win over Maryland. Smith rushed for 103 yards in the win, breaking Darrell Thompson’s program record for all-purpose yards. Smith is up to 5,117 all-purpose yards, with plenty of time to add to his historic total.

Royce Lewis, Twins prospect (↑ UP)

The Twins’ top prospect looked the part in the Arizona Fall League after an inconsistent summer. Lewis, 20, hit .353/.411/.565 in 22 games for the Salt River Rafters, winning the AFL’s MVP award after helping his team to a championship. The last three players to win the award: Keston Hiura (2018), Ronald Acuna (2017) and Gleyber Torres (2016). No pressure.