Gaborik's big return

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

For Marian Gaborik, it's become a sensitive issue.

One that's left the Minnesota Wild in limbo for the past few weeks. Heading into each contest the Wild are not sure whether he'll be able to play.

"For myself, it's easy," said Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire. "I just ask him if he's ready to play and if he says 'No', he doesn't play. It's that simple for me.

"I would love to have him every game, every practice, but I guess I can't right now."

Gaborik, 25, has missed the Wild's last three games with a groin injury, but returned in a big way last night. The 25-year-old star scored the tying goal and set up another.

"He looks good in practice, he's looked better in the last couple of days, so I think he's getting close (to being 100%)," said Lemaire prior to last night's game. "You don't want it to happen again, for him to come in and get injured again, and then he's out for two or three weeks. We want to avoid that."

Heading into last night's game, he had not played since scoring a pair of goals - including the game winner - against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 3. At the time it was his second game back after missing a pair of games with same groin injury.

"It's a little frustrating, but I'm glad I can play again and I'm looking forward to staying in the lineup for a while," Gaborik said. "I'm looking forward to this and hopefully we can finish this road trip on a winning note."

With Gaborik in the lineup, the Wild are 9-2-2 this season. Without him they're 1-4.

"I don't think anybody wants me to be in and out of the lineup," Gaborik said. "Hopefully that's not going to happen. I just need to get out there and there are some situations that I'll have to be careful. But I'm looking forward to playing and I'm excited.

"You want to be 100% out there, but in my case I can't be that all the time. In some situations I have to manage this. I'm going to try to deal with this the best way I can and we'll see how it goes."

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THREE STARS

1. Eric Belanger, Wild

Picked up a franchise-high four assists last night.

2. Jarret Stoll, Oilers

Scored a pair of goals, including a short-handed marker.

3. Marian Gaborik, Wild

Scored the tying goal, then set up the insurance marker.

WHY THEY LOST

They couldn't maintain the momentum after scoring a short-handed goal to take the lead. They allowed the Wild to score 48 seconds later, then conceded the winning goal late in the period.

PLAY OF GAME

While killing a penalty, Jarret Stoll gets hold of a loose puck at the Oilers blue-line. He races up the length of the ice and gets a weak shot away that fools Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom and goes through his pads.

SCARY MOMENT

Dustin Penner escaped serious injury when he went flying into the corner boards head first in the second period.


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