MINNESOTA SPORTS ROUNDUP: Wild defeat Kings in shootout
Thanks to an extraordinary effort by rookie goaltender Darcy Kuemper, the Wild were able to extend their winning streak to three in a row with a 2-1 shootout win over the Kings last night in Los Angeles. Kuemper was thrown into the nets when it was determined earlier in the day that Niklas Backstrom was not well enough to start. So Kuemper, in just his third NHL game of the season, came up large with 39 saves plus four more in the shootout. The other hero in Tuesday's win was forward Nino Niederreiter who tied the game at one in the third and then scored the only goal in the shootout. The Wild improved to 2-8-1 in their last 11 on the road while snapping a four game losing streak away from St. Paul. The Wild finish off the brief two game trip on Thursday night when they meet the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale, Arizona.
The Wild now have four players on injured reserve as Mikko Koivu was the latest to join the party. Koivu underwent surgery on a fractured ankle on Monday and will miss approximately four weeks. He joins Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon and Josh Harding as the group currently unavailable for play. While Niklas Backstrom was scheduled to start last night in Los Angeles and instead backed up Darcy Kuemper, head coach Mike Yeo said after the game that Backstrom was expected to be available starting Wednesday as they prepare for the Phoenix Coyotes later in the week.
The Minnesota Wild found out what players will and will not represent their countries at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund with be there for Finland while Nino Niederreiter will represent Switzerland. Last week it was unveiled that Zach Parise and Ryan Suter would wear the red, white and blue. That's a total of five players from the Wild roster that are on their way for a chance to battle for Gold. Not making a roster, defenseman Jonas Brodin. The second year d-man was left off the Swedish roster despite high regards from most around the league. The 2014 games will by the third Olympics for Koivu, second for Parise and Suter and first for Granlund and Niederrieter. The Sochi Olympics open Feb. 6, with men's ice hockey beginning Feb. 12. The participating teams are based on the nations ranked 1-9 according to the 2012 IIHF Men's World Ranking plus three qualifiers. The four teams with the best records (the group winners and the second-place team with the best record) advance to the quarterfinals on Feb. 19. The Gold Medal Game is scheduled for 6 a.m. February 23rd.
The Minnesota Timberwolves look to push their record over .500 tonight when they host the Phoenix Coyotes at Target Center. While the T-Wolves (17-17, 10-6 at home) have flirted with a better than .500 record for a while now they haven't peeked over the plateu since late November when they were 8-7. Lately the Wolves have been producing positive results, winning 4 of their last 6. The Suns on the other hand lost last night in 92-87 to the Chicago Bulls and have now dropped 2 of 3. Gametime is set for 8:30 p.m. tonight from Target Center.
Both the Golden Gopher men's and women's basketball teams are on the road for games tonight in the Big Ten. Richard Pitino's men's club is at Penn State for a 6 p.m. game. The Gopher men are 12-and-3 overall and 1-and-1 in the Big Ten. Penn State is 9-and-6 overall and 0-and-2 in the league. Pam Borton's women's team is at Iowa for a 7 p.m. contest. The Gopher women are 11-and-4 overall and 0-and-1 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeye women are 12-and-4 overall and 0-and-2 in the conference.
Could the waiting finally come to an end for former Twins pitcher Jack Morris? He's been on the Hall-of-Fame ballot for 15 years without luck but today the waiting could pay off. He won 254 game in his career, was a World Series champion three times and won at least 20 games three times as well. Twins fans probably remember Morris best for his efforts in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series against the Atlanta Braves when he pitched 10 innings to help Minnesota become World Champions with a 1-0 win. Last year he got 67.7 percent of the vote - just shy of the 75 percent required to successfully claim him place in Cooperstown, NY. If Morris doesn't get in today, it will be 2017 before he would be eligible to be considered by the Veterans Committee.
The Minnesota Vikings have been without a head coach for just more than a week. General manager Rick Spielman is in search of the new bench boss and has reportedly conducted a handful of interviews with various candidates, mostly with current NFL coordinators. Leslie Frazier was let go last Monday, a day after a season-closing win over Detroit.
Lindsey Vonn has elected to not ski in the Winter Olympics coming up next month in Sochi, Russia. The defending Olympic downhill champion officially withdrew on Tuesday via Facebook saying that her damaged right knee can't withstand the rigors of racing. Vonn posted her only public comment and said she was "devastated" to miss the Olympics. Publicist Lewis Kay said she will have another surgery soon on the anterior cruciate ligament that originally was torn in a crash at last February's world championships, then re-injured in November. Her hope is to be healthy for the 2014-15 World Cup season and the 2015 world championships in her current hometown of Vail, Colo.