It's worth noting ...

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

With the team telling Marian Gaborik to take a few extra days off over the holidays, many are speculating his time in a Minnesota Wild uniform is nearing an end.

Speculation includes the idea he'll be swapped straight up to Atlanta for Thrashers pending unrestricted free agent Ilya Kovalchuk. Gaborik missed 27 games with a bad groin, returning to face the Flames Dec. 17 in St. Paul. The sniper scored and added an assist in the overtime loss and has three goals and five points in six games this season.

How much is he missed?

"One or two points a game, that's how much we miss him," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire told reporters in the Twin Cities. "He's playing I would say at 75-80%, and he's still one of our best players."

FLAMES EXPECT WILD RIVAL

The Wild dropped to fourth in the Northwest Division before last night's games, slipping eight points behind the top-spot Flames thanks to just three wins this month ... Despite the Wild's lack of recent success, Flames RW Rene Bourque knows they'll play the Flames tough. "Divisional games, points are crucial," he said yesterday. "We had a big win against them about a week ago there, and I'm sure they'll be hungry to get back (at us). I expect a tough game, and it'll be close." ... C Craig Conroy needs three points to reach 500 in the NHL ... G Miikka Kiprusoff needs four more wins to snag second spot on the franchise's all-time wins list. Dan Bouchard holds that spot with 168 victories ... Bourque's hat-trick Saturday left him three points shy of his 100th ... RW Jarome Iginla's 802 points in a Flames uniform is 20 behind Al MacInnis on the all-time list ... Only a dozen Flames skated in the optional practice yesterday. Among them was LW Todd Bertuzzi, who rarely takes a day off when it comes to lacing up the skates. His decision-making and work ethic are often questioned on the ice during games, but there's no doubt he enjoys his hockey.


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