Three things to look out for in the week ahead

• New Orleans can do the Vikings a favor if the Saints can defeat reeling Carolina on "Monday Night Football." The Panthers (6-7) have lost five games in a row but are still hanging in the playoff race.

• The Wild plays the Sharks — a team in a very similar position in the Western Conference standings — on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center. Contenders need to win their share of these kinds of games.

• The only thing standing between the Gophers women's basketball team and an undefeated run through the nonconference season is a home game vs. Rhode Island on Saturday. Coach Lindsay Whalen has Minnesota playing quite well so far.