After ending his holdout, Minnesota’s rising star will be in the lineup for the first time this season as the Wild go for their fifth win in six games in a matchup with the Colorado Avalanche.
The 21-year-old right wing, who led the Wild with 30 goals and 65 points last season, signed a multiyear deal with the team in time for practice Friday but sat out as Minnesota defeated Washington 2-1 on Saturday.
“What happened in the past, happened in the past,” Gaborik said of his holdout. “Maybe some things didn’t have to happen, but what I wanted to do was come back.”
In 2002-03, Gaborik’s third season, he became the first player in team history to play in the All-Star game and helped the team reach the Western Conference finals. Gaborik was the franchise’s first draft pick.
He rejoins a club that has had problems offensively with just 28 goals this season, but has shown signs of life lately behind left wing Andrew Brunette and center Wes Walz, who have each scored a goal in three straight games.
With Gaborik providing a boost on offense, the Wild should bear much less of a resemblance to the struggling club that lost 5-2 to Colorado on Oct. 16.
“We’re all accustomed to playing with him, so I’m sure it will be smooth,” Brunette said. “It’ll be great to have him back on the ice with us.”
Minnesota’s defense has been strong all season, and the Wild have held their last three opponents to four total goals.
Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals improved Minnesota to 4-1-0 since a 1-5-1 start.
The Avalanche played their second straight game without Peter Forsberg and picked up a hard-fought 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday after falling 4-3 to New Jersey a day earlier.
Alex Tanguay led Colorado back from a 2-0 deficit with the game-tying score in the third period, and assisted on Karlis Skrastins’ winner 1:14 into overtime. Tanguay stretched his NHL season-best point streak to nine games.
Forsberg sat out again with a slight groin pull and is day-to-day. Left wing Paul Kariya missed his sixth straight game due to a sprained wrist that has sidelined him indefinitely.
David Aebischer made 22 saves playing his third consecutive game and sixth in the last seven. He kept the Avalanche close throughout and made several big saves as the Avs killed a five-minute power play in the first period.
“The big key was killing off the five-minute penalty,” Aebischer said. “We played well defensively in the third period. We almost didn’t make any mistakes.”
STANDINGS (through Nov. 2): Wild - 11 points, 3rd place (tied), 5 PB, Northwest Division. Avalanche - 12 points, 2nd place, 4 PB, Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Wild - Walz and Alexandre Daigle, 4 goals; Pierre-Marc Bouchard, 6 assists; Brunette and Bouchard, 8 points; Matt Johnson, 39 PIM. Avalanche - Milan Hejduk, 8 goals; Tanguay, 12 assists and 17 points; Jim Cummins, 30 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 2): Wild - Power play: 19 percent (12 for 63), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83 percent (44 for 53), 17th. Avalanche - Power play: 25.9 percent (15 for 58), 3rd. Penalty killing: 81.6 percent (40 for 49), 19th.
SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Oct. 16; Avalanche, 5-2. At St. Paul, Minn., Teemu Selanne got his first goal in a Colorado uniform after the Avalanche scored three goals in the second period en route to their second five-goal game in three contests.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Wild - 2-3-0-0 on the road; Avalanche - 3-3-0-0 at home.