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NEW ORLEANS (12-5) at MINNESOTA (13-3)

Sunday Mark Clayton Jersey , 4:40 p.m. EST, Fox

OPENING LINE – Vikings by 4

RECORD VS. SPREAD -New Orleans 8-8, Minnesota 11-4-1

SERIES RECORD – Vikings lead 21-11

LAST MEETING – Vikings beat Saints 29-19, Sept. 11, 2017

LAST WEEK – Saints beat Panthers 31-26; Vikings had first-round bye

AP PRO32 RANKING -Saints No. 6, Vikings No. 2

SAINTS OFFENSE – OVERALL (2), RUSH (5), PASS (5)

SAINTS DEFENSE – OVERALL (17), RUSH (16), PASS (15)

VIKINGS OFFENSE – OVERALL (11), RUSH (7), PASS (11)

VIKINGS DEFENSE – OVERALL (1), RUSH (2), PASS (2)

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – Vikings have won two of three postseason matchups with Saints Bobby Wagner Jersey , 1987 wild-card game in New Orleans and 2000 divisional-round game in Minnesota. Saints won 2009 NFC championship game at home. … Vikings are 13-3 at home in history against Saints, including the one playoff victory. … Saints are 7-4 in six appearances in playoffs under coach Sean Payton. They’re 1-4 on road, excluding neutral-site win in Super Bowl 44. … Saints QB Drew Brees passed for 376 yards against Panthers, his second-highest total of season. … Saints rookie Alvin Kamara, who had second-most receptions (81) in league by RB in regular season, had only one catch against Panthers. … Saints FB Zach Line, who spent four seasons with Vikings, had TD run last week. … Saints, who ranked third in NFL in regular season with 20 interceptions and tied for ninth in league with 25 total takeaways, did not force turnover vs. Panthers. … Saints’ defense ranked eighth in NFL in sacks per pass attempt in regular season and sacked Panthers’ Cam Newton four times last week, including one by team leader Cameron Jordan. … Jordan had only sack for Saints in season-opening loss at Minnesota, when Sam Bradford was Vikings QB and passed for 346 yards and three TDs without turnover on 27 of 32 completions for career-high 143.0 rating. …. Vikings allowed 27 sacks in regular season, seventh fewest in league. … Jordan, who had career-high 13 sacks in regular season, is son of former Vikings TE Steve Jordan Jason Verrett Jersey , who was six-time Pro Bowl pick and caught TD pass in 1987 win in playoffs against Saints. … Vikings’ record against spread in regular season was best in NFL. … Vikings had first-round bye for fourth time under current playoff format. They reached NFC championship game each of three previous instances. … Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is 0-1 in playoffs. … Payton and Zimmer were assistants on Cowboys staff together between 2003-05, with Payton running offense and Zimmer running defense. … This is Vikings QB Case Keenum’s first career start in playoffs and first playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016 and is site of next month’s Super Bowl. … Vikings WR Stefon Diggs had TD catch in each of last three games. He had two TDs and 93 yards in opener against Saints. … RB Latavius Murray had 745 yards and eight TDs in last 10 games of regular season. He had TD run last season in playoffs for Raiders against Texans. … Vikings FS Harrison Smith tied career high with five interceptions and was one of two players in league with 70 or more tackles, five or more interceptions and one or more sacks. … Vikings allowed only 20 runs of 10-plus yards in regular season, fewest in NFL since 49ers in 1995.

Jon Cooper searched for adequate words to describe the feeling of coming within one victory of playing for the Stanley Cup.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have done it twice in the past three years. And it hurts.

”It’s everything from agonizing to angry to disappointed to shock,” the coach said Thursday, less than 24 hours after one of the most successful seasons in franchise history came to a screeching halt with a 4-0 loss to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.

”I’m sure that’s going to turn into proud and happy for our group,” he added. ”There are so many good emotions about coaching this team … but the emotions of how it ended is tough.”

After compiling the best record in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, eliminating the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and rebounding from losing the first games of the conference final to take a 3-2 series lead, the Lightning truly believed this was their year.

Now, general manager Steve Yzerman and Cooper face decisions about what needs to be tweaked.

The Lightning won Game 7 of the conference final against the Rangers in 2015, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history. They made it back to the East final, only to lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games two years ago.

”If anybody sits and says it was an unsuccessful season, I have to question that. You look back at this team. All the accomplishments of the regular season John Randle Jersey , and then to be one game away from getting to the Stanley Cup Final,” Cooper said, his voice trailing off.

”Now it’s just solving that piece of the puzzle,” the coach added, ”getting over the top.”

With a talented roster that’s both deep and fairly young, there won’t be wholesale changes.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, a Vezina Trophy finalist in his first full season as a starter, is just 23 years old.

Leading scorer Nikita Kucherov is 24, Norris Trophy finalist Victor Hedman is 27, and emerging star Brayden Point is just 22.

Even captain Steven Stamkos, completing his 10th NHL season, is only 28.

”What were we missing? A couple of goals in Game 7,” Cooper said. ”You can sit here and pick apart all you want of what went wrong, it was one game. We didn’t score and we lost the game. They were opportunistic and scored, and they advanced. … It’s razor-thin how close this league is.”

Yzerman said there are a number of areas where the Lightning need to get better moving forward Adrian Phillips Jersey , including defensively.

The GM, however, rejected the notion that somehow the season was a failure because a team with such high expectations didn’t get back to the championship round.

”It’s really difficult to win the Stanley Cup, and if you’re going to measure every year strictly on it’s a failure if we win or not, I don’t think I look at it that way,” Yzerman said.

”There’s a process and there’s no definitive timeline for it. Just continue to improve, continue to hang around, I guess, and we’re going to win one of these things,” the GM added. ”It’s not a failure. It’s a disappointment at this stage, but we’re not sitting here saying we’re the best team by a mile. We realize there’s a bunch of good teams out there, a group of teams that could win the Stanley Cup.”

Cooper said one thing it’s important to not do this summer is over-react.

”It’s hard to explain just how hard it is to get here,” the coach said. ”There are 30 teams who are going to get Monday morning quarterbacked, and one team that is not. You just have to build on your strengths and keep getting better and come back next year stronger than ever.”

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