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Oilers-Wild Preview @NHL
Oilers-Wild Preview

GAME: Edmonton Oilers (12-10-1) at Minnesota Wild (9-9-2).

TIME: Wednesday, 8 p.m. EST.

An emotional victory may have gotten the Minnesota Wild on track. The return of the top scorer in franchise history would help, too.

Marian Gaborik could be back on the ice for the Wild as they try to win the first of eight meetings this season with the Northwest Division rival Edmonton Oilers.

Gaborik, whose 98 goals and 116 assists have all come in a Minnesota uniform, has been sidelined since Oct. 23 with a strained hip flexor-groin injury. He's appeared in just three games this season, tallying two goals and four assists.

The left winger has been practicing with the team since last week, and could be ready to return to game action Wednesday. Center Marc Chouinard also may be back with the team after sitting out three weeks with a sprained shoulder.

Getting either, or both of those players back in the lineup would further boost a Minnesota team coming off a 4-2 victory over Nashville on Saturday.

Rookie defenseman Kurtis Foster, recalled from the AHL before the game, became the first player to score two goals in his Wild debut.

Foster's big night came after Minnesota paid tribute to Sergei Zholtok, the NHL veteran who died of heart failure while playing in his native Latvia during the lockout. Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire was worried how the pregame tribute would affect his team.

"I was really scared. Because even myself, I started to look at the screen and I only could look for 5 seconds because it started to get me," Lemaire said.

The tribute certainly did not have a negative effect on Lemaire's team, which scored more than three goals in a game for the first time since Oct. 19 - a span of 12 games.

Minnesota had lost three in a row and eight of 11.

"Overall we got exactly what we had all week. We had good practices. Guys worked really hard and they just played the way they've practiced all week," Lemaire said. "Everyone help each other on the ice, you get a better team."

Edmonton has won nine of 13 since enduring a seven-game losing streak in mid-October.

The Oilers lost starting goaltender Ty Conklin to a groin injury late in that slide, but Jussi Markkanen and rookie Mike Morrison have posted a 2.51 goals-against average in Edmonton's last 13 games.

Morrison was in goal Monday for Edmonton's 2-1 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks. He stopped 21 shots and allowed just one of three shootout attempts to elude him.

"He's making it easy to play him again," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said of Morrison, who is 2-0 with a 1.14 GAA and .952 save percentage in four games. "We'll just see how far he can take us."

Edmonton has won three of its last four games. Center Shawn Horcoff has seven assists in that span.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 22): Oilers - 25 points, 3rd place (tied), 5 PB, Northwest Division. Wild - 20 points, 5th place, 10 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Ryan Smyth, 11 goals; Horcoff, 19 assists and 23 points; Ethan Moreau, 43 PIM. Wild - Brian Rolston, 9 goals; Pierre-Marc Bouchard, 11 assists and 16 points; Derek Boogaard, 39 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 22): Oilers - Power play: 17.8 percent (26 for 146), 18th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (115 for 141), 17th. Wild - Power play: 19 percent (20 for 105), 12th. Penalty killing: 89 percent (106 for 119), 1st.

GOALTENDERS: Oilers - Morrison (2-0-0, 0 SO, 1.14 GAA); Markkanen (9-9-1, 3.00). Wild - Dwayne Roloson (3-6-1, 1, 2.46); Manny Fernandez (6-3-1, 1.95).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: 2-2-2-0.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 13, 2004; Wild, 3-0. At St. Paul, Minn., the Wild scored three goals before the game was half over. Roloson saved 28 shots for his fourth shutout of the season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Oilers - 7-7-0 on the road; Wild - 6-3-0 at home.

Associated Press
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