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A closer look: Gaborik has strong return game

Sunday, 03.22.2009 / 5:30 PM CT / Minnesota Wild | Features
By James MacDonald  - Special to
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A closer look: Gaborik has strong return game
Game recap: Wild 3, Edmonton 0

Gaborik scouting report ...
"He does unbelievable things with the puck. I think I started playing with him more in the second and thired period. We had a lead, and we were trying to play a good, sound defensive game, not do too many things. My job was to get the puck to him, get the puck deep, stay high and let him do what he does." -- Dan  Fritsche
At 2:08 CDT Sunday, Marian Gaborik returned to play for the Wild for the first time since Dec. 23, marking his seventh game of an injury-plagued season. By nearly all accounts and not surprisingly, his return after missing 38 games was greeted as a success.

Gaborik's line read: 17:43, 24 shifts, six shots. In the first period, Gaborik averaged 29 seconds per shift in the nine he took, then raised the average to :37 at the end of two (15 shifts), and :44 overall.

Likely more important, however, were the qualifiable successes.

Nearly from the start, though his icetime was somewhat limited by Wild penalties in the first,  Gaborik stretched the zone, and helped give teammates room with and without the puck.

"He's definitely a scoring threat, and we can use all the goals we can get," said Owen Nolan. "Just his presence on the ice makes the other team aware [of him]."

During Minnesota's second period, a frame that saw the home team set a franchise record with 23 shots, Gaborik drew three penalties, including a pair to give the Wild 1:27 of five-on-three and, later, another that led to Nolan's first goal lead.

After earning calls against Ales Hemsky (holding at 3:40) and Sheldon Souray (slashing at 4:14) to give the Wild a two-man advantage, Steve Staios was whistled for cross checking Gaborik at 13:40. Less than a minute later, Nolan scored the first of his pair on the power play that followed.

"Just kept moving, so there were a couple penalties," Gaborik said. "That's what happens. So, [I] try to move my feet, have short shifts and try to get into the game as quick as possible."

Minnesota improved to 234-180-88 with Gaborik in franchise history and 112-62-23 since 2005-06, versus 51-62-11 without him.

"I was a little nervous to play the game, but, as soon as I hit the ice, everything went well."

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