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Zulgad’s Roundup: Ben Johnson deserves praise for hot start by Gophers men’s basketball team

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Michigan
Dec 11, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Ben Johnson reacts during the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
  • The 8-1 start by the Gophers men’s basketball team, which includes the program’s first victory at Michigan since 2011, should have first-year coach Ben Johnson in the early lead to be Big Ten coach of the year. The Gophers were expected to be awful in Johnson’s first season, but instead they already have road victories against Mississippi State (81-76) and the Wolverines (75-65). Considering the fact that Johnson has a team filled with transfers, the work he has done is very impressive. The Big Ten has awarded a coach of the year since 1973-74. The Gophers’ Jim Dutcher won it in 1982, Clem Haskins in 1987 and Richard Pitino in 2017.
  • Although many expect the NHL and its players to make the late decision to skip the upcoming Olympic Games, Wild general manager Bill Guerin could have a key role with the U.S. team. He was named general manager of the U.S. Olympic men’s team on Tuesday by USA Hockey. Guerin replaces former Chicago GM Stan Bowman, who stepped down seven weeks ago following the release of the report that detailed the Blackhawks’ handling of 2010 sexual assault allegations regarding a former video coach. Guerin was the assistant to Bowman. That job now will be filled by Rangers GM Chris Drury. Guerin will not serve as GM, if the NHL doesn’t go to the Games and players from other professional leagues are used.
  • The Wild will get back veteran Jonas Brodin for Thursday’s game against Buffalo after the defenseman missed a pair of games over the weekend because of an upper-body injury. The Wild lost both games (to the Kings and Golden Knights) with Brodin sitting after going 7-0-1 while defenseman Jared Spurgeon was sidelined because of a lower-body injury. This is not to take away from Spurgeon, but Brodin might be the most important blue liner on this team. He is not only very steady but is one of the best skaters in the league.
  • Don’t be surprised if the Vikings’ game against the visiting Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 26 is shifted from a noon start to a late-afternoon kickoff.
  • Wide receiver Adam Thielen, who suffered a high left ankle sprain in the Vikings’ loss to the Lions on Dec. 5, is making progress and could return for next Monday night’s game at Chicago, according to Scoopmaster Darren (Doogie) Wolfson of SKOR North and KSTP-TV. Doogie also reports that rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw is making progress in his return from an ankle injury. Darrisaw has missed the past two games after being injured in a Nov. 28 loss at San Francisco.
  • When Darrisaw does return, it will be interesting to see what the Vikings do along the offensive line. Oli Udoh was moved from right guard to left tackle to replace Darrisaw, while Mason Cole shifted from center to right guard and Garrett Bradbury returned at center. The interior of the line has looked better with Bradbury and Cole playing, so Udoh could find himself as the sixth offensive lineman when Darrisaw is ready.
  • The Houston Texans took quarterback Davis Mills out of Stanford with third pick (67th overall) in the third round of last April’s draft, one pick after the Vikings selected Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond. While Mond has spent the season on the Vikings’ inactive list, Mills has now started seven games for the Texans (2-11) and played in nine. Mills, who has yet to win in a start, has completed 179-of-272 passes for 1,737 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions and an 81.1 passer rating in nine games. Veteran Tyrod Taylor has played in six games for the Texans, but has been benched so the team can get a longer look at Mills. Meanwhile, the future of Texans QB Deshaun Watson remains unclear. Watson demanded a trade last January and now faces 22 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault.
  • Kicker Daniel Carlson, who was cut by the Vikings after the second game of his rookie season in 2018 when he missed three field-goal attempts in a 29-29 tie at Green Bay, recently signed a four-year, $18.4 million contract extension with the Las Vegas Raiders. Carlson reportedly received a $4 million signing bonus and $10.2 million in guarantees. A fifth-round pick of the Vikings, Carlson is 28-of-31 on field-goal attempts and 23-of-26 on extra points this season.
  • Former Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph had a career-long 60-yard reception in the New York Giants’ 37-21 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. That set up a touchdown reception from Mike Glennon to Eli Penny. Rudolph, 32, has 21 catches for 231 yards and a touchdown in 12 games. Rudolph’s longest catch during his 10 seasons with the Vikings went for 47 yards in 2015.
  • Former Wild winger Zach Parise scored his first goal of the season, in his 23rd game, with the New York Islanders on Saturday in a 4-2 victory over New Jersey. The 37-year-old’s first goal as an Islander came shorthanded and gave him a goal and four assists on the season. Dallas defenseman Ryan Suter, who was bought out on the same July day as Parise last summer, has three goals and 11 assists in 25 games.
  • Lakeville native Jake Oettinger has emerged as an important part of the Dallas Stars’ goalie rotation. He is 5-1-0 in six starts and seven games this season with a 1.52 goals-against average and .951 save percentage. Oettinger went 11-8-7 in 29 games and 24 starts last season as a rookie, posting a 2.36 goals-against average, .911 save percentage with one shutout. The 26th-overall pick in the first round of the 2017 draft, Oettinger played college hockey at Boston University. The Stars’ top goalie is veteran Braden Holtby. The team has announced that another veteran, Ben Bishop, is done playing because of a knee issue. Anton Khudobin was placed on waivers by the Stars on Monday, creating uncertainty about the 35-year-old’s future.
  • Former Twin Cesar Tovar, who ranks third on the team’s all-time list in steals (186) and 11th in hits (1,164) is one of 16 former players on the ballot for the Twins Hall of Fame. My former Star Tribune and current SKOR North colleague Patrick Reusse, one of the top authorities on the Twins’ history, has long said that Tovar should be part of the team’s Hall. Another candidate, two-time World Series champion and longtime broadcaster Dan Gladden, also deserves the honor.
  • Former Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has signed a professional tryout contract with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. The 35-year-old spent last season with the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche but was out of work until the Checkers called.