The Latest – December 22, 2011 22 Dec 11

Wild-Oilers
(Edmonton, Alberta) — The Minnesota Wild are in the middle of a five-game losing streak and hope to snap it north of the border tonight. Minnesota plays struggling Edmonton in Alberta at 8:30 p.m. Wild head coach Mike Yeo [[ Yoh ]] says all teams go through rough stretches and his team is experiencing one right now. Captain Mikko Koivu is eligible to come off of injured reserve before the game tonight, but is still considered doubtful. Koivu is one of several Minnesota players dealing with injuries. Despite the losing skid, Minnesota is still atop the Northwest Division standings.

Final USA Hockey Roster Revealed
(Camrose, Alberta) — Team USA coach Dean Blais [[ Blaze ]] announced his final hockey roster today for next week’s World Junior Championships in Alberta, Canada. A total of 28 players were vying for 22 spots and several players with Minnesota connections made the final roster. Making the team are Golden Gophers Kyle Rau of Eden Prairie and Nick Bjugstad [[ BYOOK-stad ]] of Blaine, North Dakota defenseman Derek Forbort of Duluth and Nebraska-Omaha forward Josh Archibald of Brainerd. Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Justin Faulk of South St. Paul was cut from the final roster. Wild prospects Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle also made the Team USA roster. Blais, who is the head coach at Nebraska-Omaha, is an International Falls native and former Gophers hockey player. Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sundelin is an assistant on the team, as is Tom Ward of Prior Lake, who coaches Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school in Faribault. The U.S. has played two exhibition games so far in Canada, losing to Russia and beating Switzerland. The Americans have one more exhibition contest tonight against Slovakia in Camrose, before the tourney begins on Monday with pool play against Denmark in Edmonton.

Gophers’ Welch Improving
(Minneapolis, MN) — University of Minnesota men’s basketball player Julian Welch has scored in double-figures in eight straight games. He’s emerged as the team leader after senior Trevor Mbakwe [[ em-BOCK-way ]] went down with injury on November 27th. The Gophers haven’t lost since and Welch is a key reason why. The junior college transfer says he’s getting more and more comfortable with his teammates and the style of play being employed by the Gophers coaching staff. Tonight, Minnesota hosts North Dakota State in the final non-conference game. Minnesota is 11-and-1, while NDSU is 8-and-2. The Bison have seven players from Minnesota on their roster. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.

Timberwolves Finished With Preseason Play
(Minneapolis, MN) — The Minnesota Timberwolves finished their two-game preseason slate with a perfect 2-and-0 record, notching wins in two totally separate ways. The opening exhibition win came in a dominating 117-96 performance against the Bucks at the Target Center. Last night’s win over the Bucks in Milwaukee saw the Wolves trail most of the game before rallying from 11-points behind with two minutes to play to win the game 85-84. Minnesota scored the final 12 points. Now, the real season is fast-approaching, with one of the league’s best teams visiting the Target Center for opening night on Monday. Oklahoma City comes to town as one of the preseason favorites to contend for an NBA title. Tipoff on Monday is at 7 p.m. The team has a planned practice at Target Center today.

Vikings-Redskins
(Eden Prairie, MN) — Saturday’s meeting between the Vikings and Redskins is the 21st time the two NFC teams will play against each other. Washington holds the all-time series lead with 11 wins and nine losses, although the Redskins are only 5-and-5 when playing the Vikes in the nation’s capital. Minnesota has won four of the last six games, including a 17-13 win last season in Washington, which was Leslie Frazier’s first game as interim head coach. The 20 previous meetings include 15 regular season encounters and five postseason games. Washington leads the regular season series with an 8-and-7 record, while winning three of the five playoff games, as well. Saturday’s kickoff is at noon.

Mauer Says Morneau Wants To Play
(Minneapolis, MN) — One superstar Twins player says another superstar Twins player is hoping to play more than he has in the past two years. Both Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have gone through injury woes over the past two years. Mauer said last night that both he and Morneau are doing all they can to return to the field in time for spring training. Mauer’s injury has been more of a mystery with hardly any specific details ever released, while Morneau still suffers from occasional concussion symptoms and is recovering from last year’s neck surgery. Mauer says he knows Morneau is working hard to recover. He says both guys were frustrated by having to sit out with injuries.