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Wild Prepare To Face Gaborik, Rangers Tonight

(Sports Network) – Marian Gaborik’s career with the Wild was highlighted with plenty of goals and a variety of injuries. Coincidentally, the Rangers forward did not play in New York’s lone trip to Minnesota last year due to injury.

There is nothing keeping Gaborik off the Xcel Energy ice tonight though as he skates in front of his former fans for the first time since joining the Rangers as a free agent prior to last season.

Gaborik won’t be alone either as another former Wild skater, enforcer Derek Boogaard, will also face his old club for the first time since joining the Blueshirts.

The 28-year-old Gaborik was the Wild’s first ever draft pick after the newly- formed franchise grabbed him third overall in the 2000 draft. He would go on to record 219 goals, 218 assists and 437 points — all franchise highs — in 502 games and eight seasons with the Wild, but also missed 104 games over his final three seasons with the club due to hip, groin and back injuries. Gaborik skated in just 17 contests in his final season with the club.

The forward signed a five-year deal with the Rangers prior to the 2009-10 season and skated in 76 games, scoring a career high-tying 42 goals while setting a career best with 44 assists and 86 points. However, one of the games he did miss last year was a 3-2 setback in Minnesota on Oct. 30 because of a leg injury.

Gaborik has four goals and four assists in eight games this year, missing 12 straight contests at one point due to a separated shoulder. He assisted on Derek Stepan’s goal in last night’s 5-1 loss at Colorado, a game in which the Rangers gave up four goals in the second period.

Henrik Lundqvist was lifted in the second period after yielding three goals on 16 shots. Martin Biron made eight saves the rest of the way as New York lost its second straight game and fell to 6-3-0 on the road this year.

“I felt like everything went their way in the second period and that kind of killed the game,” Lundqvist said. “I didn’t think we were that bad. We needed a couple more saves to keep us in the game but we didn’t get them tonight.”

Forward Brandon Prust suffered a charley horse in the game, but is hopeful he can play tonight.

Even if Prust can’t go, the Rangers will have plenty of toughness in Boogaard, who was a seventh round pick of the Wild in 2001. He spent five seasons with the club, racking up 544 penalty minutes in 270 games before signing with the Rangers this past offseason.

The Wild will try to contain Gaborik’s ability and avoid Boogaard’s fists tonight as they go for a season-high fourth straight win. Minnesota picked up its sixth victory in eight games last night with a 4-3 overtime victory in Detroit.

After blowing a 2-0 lead, Mikko Koivu’s goal with 1:23 left in regulation forced overtime, where John Madden won it with 52 seconds remaining on a backhander in front.

“I just kept circling the wagons,” Madden said. “[Marek Zidlicky] threw it on the net. I think it was originally going to go to me. Their goalie made a good save and I just kept going back door. The puck found me and I was able to jam it underneath his pad.”

Jose Theodore stopped 41 shots for the Wild, who open a three-game homestand tonight and are 6-3-1 as the hosting club this season.

Last year’s win over the Rangers was the fourth in the Wild’s last six games versus New York. The Blueshirts have still won seven of the last 11 meetings overall, but have dropped three in a row in Minnesota.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.