Friends, teammates honor Wild captain Mikko Koivu
Mikko Koivu, Wild forward (↑ UP)
The Wild honored Koivu, out since Dec. 3 with a lower-body injury, before Tuesday's game against the Anaheim Ducks (he suited up for the ceremony, but didn't play). The longtime Wild captain, who turns 37 in March, appeared in his 1,000th NHL game back on Dec. 1, netting the game-winner in a shootout. Plenty of old friends turned up for the pregame festivities, including former teammates Niklas Backstrom and Marian Gaborik, the only player left ahead of Koivu on the Wild's all-time goals list.
Danielle Hunter, Vikings defensive end (↑ UP)
Head coach Mike Zimmer doesn't think we've seen Hunter's ceiling yet. That's bad news for Detroit Lions quarterback David Blough. Hunter, 25, sacked the rookie three times in the first half Sunday, becoming the youngest player to reach 50 career sacks.
Dalvin Cook, Vikings running back (↓ DOWN)
Cook had been holding up well this season before aggravating a nagging shoulder injury during the Vikings' loss to the Seahawks in Week 13. The third-year running back, once on pace to break Adrian Peterson's franchise record for yards from scrimmage per game, was held to fewer than 30 rushing yards in consecutive games before rushing for 62 yards on 18 attempts in Sunday's win over the Lions.
Kaapo Kahkonen, Wild goalie (↑ UP)
The Wild came out flat against Anaheim in their first home game since Dec. 1, but it's hard to pin much of the blame on their rookie goaltender. Kahkonen allowed a pair of quick goals in the first period, as the Ducks out-shot the Wild 12-1, but was sharp the rest of the way. He made 24 saves on 25 shots at even strength and went 31-for-33 on the night, as the Wild forced overtime and a shootout. Rickard Rakell and Max Comtois both caught Kahkonen retreating into the crease a bit too early in the shootout and roofed it, but he didn't get much help from the offense here either, as Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala failed to convert. The Wild have yet to lose in regulation with the 23-year-old rookie in net, while he now has a .947 SV% and a 1.95 GAA through three starts with a .961 SV% at even strength.
Nelson Cruz, Twins designated hitter (↑ UP)
That All-Star snub is even more of a head-scratcher now. The Twins' designated hitter was named to the inaugural All-MLB first team on Tuesday after hitting .311 with a 1.031 OPS and 41 home runs in his first season with Minnesota. "Boomstick" got even better after the break, hitting .344 with a 1.147 OPS and 25 home runs. Perhaps his most remarkable accomplishment of the season: Cruz ruptured a tendon in his wrist in August but missed just nine games, hitting .351 with nine home runs in 33 games the rest of the way.
Eric Staal, Wild forward (↓ DOWN)
Staal exited Tuesday's game following a hard collision with a linesman late in the first period and remained on the ice for some time. Head coach Bruce Boudreau didn't offer up an update on Staal's condition following the game. Losing the 35-year-old center for any length of time would be problematic for the Wild. Staal is tied for the team lead with 21 points in 31 games and ranks third with eight goals.
Ryan Donato, Wild forward (↑ UP)
Donato scored on a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle early in the first period Tuesday, then was hauled down on a breakaway in overtime. Acquired last season from the Bruins, the 24-year-old struggled out of the gate, scoring his first goal of the season in his 14th game, but now has three goals in his last five.
Naz Reid, Wolves center (↑ UP)
Reid only appeared in four minutes over two games but the 6-foot-10, 250-pounder even playing in an NBA game this year is something. Reid went undrafted after one year at LSU. He was signed two a two-way contract after a good summer league with the Wolves, only to have that be converted to a full deal. Still, Reid is a project and was expected to work on his game for part or all of the year in the G League. He was called up to Minnesota and got into back-to-back games against the Lakers and Suns. His first NBA basket was a 3-pointer, staying on brand with this year's Wolves.