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San Jose Sharks vs. Minnesota Wild

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GAME: San Jose Sharks (3-2-1) at Minnesota Wild (3-2-1).

TIME: Wednesday, 8 p.m. EDT.

Right wing Marian Gaborik is expected to make his season debut for the Minnesota Wild when they host the San Jose Sharks.

Gaborik, who had 18 goals and 22 assists in 65 games in 2003-04, did not play in the preseason and has missed the first six games of the regular season because of a pulled groin. The 23-year-old winger was initially set to make his debut last week, but general manager Doug Risebrough felt Gaborik was not ready.

"He's the boss, and they wanted to make sure that nothing happens," Gaborik said. "There are a lot of injuries out there. They just want to make sure I'm more ready so it's not going to reinjure."

The Wild's offense has performed well despite the absence of their star forward. Minnesota has scored 13 goals over its last three games, including a 4-1 victory over Anaheim on Sunday.

Brian Rolston and Filip Kuba each scored on the power play as Minnesota continued its success with the man advantage. The Wild are converting a league-high 33.3 percent (10-of-30) of their power-play chances.

"Obviously our goaltending has been great," Rolston said. "And we're scoring at opportune times. If you can capitalize on those early opportunities, it really gets you going."

Minnesota has also excelled on the penalty kill, preventing opponents from scoring on 38 of 40 power plays.

"Around the league, it's been tough for certain teams," goaltender Manny Fernandez said. "You see the high scores. We've just stayed focused."

The Wild are 3-2-1 with 21 goals scores through six games this season. They were 1-4-1 with only 12 goals in their first six games during the 2003-04 campaign.

San Jose opened a six-game road trip with a 3-2 overtime loss at Detroit on Monday.

Marco Sturm and Nils Ekman scored for the Sharks, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Center Patrick Marleau had an assist to extend his points streak to four games. Marleau has three goals and four assists during that stretch.

San Jose posted one-goal wins in each of its last two visits to the Xcel Energy Center in 2003-04.

STANDINGS (through Oct. 17): Sharks - 7 points, 3rd place, 1 PB, Pacific Division. Wild - 7 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Marleau and Sturm, 4 goals; Marleau and Milan Michalek, 4 assists; Marleau, 8 points; Kyle McLaren, 12 PIM. Wild - Marc Chouinard, 4 goals; Todd White, 5 assists; Chouinard and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, 7 points; Wes Walz and Alex Henry, 11 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 17): Sharks - Power play: 13.3 percent (6 for 45), 21st in NHL. Penalty killing: 77.8 percent (28 for 36), 24th. Wild - Power play: 33.3 percent (10 for 30), 1st. Penalty killing: 95.0 percent (38 for 40), 1st.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (3-1-1, 0 SO, 3.18 GAA); Vesa Toskala (0-1-0, 10.43). Wild - Dwayne Roloson (2-2-0, 1, 2.27); Fernandez (1-0-1, 1.46).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 3-1.

LAST MEETING: March 9, 2004. Wild, 4-3. At San Jose, Calif., Zbynek Michalek and Alexandre Daigle scored goals 1:35 apart in the second period and Fernandez won for the first time in 16 games by stopping 31 shots as the Wild ended a seven-game winless streak.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 1-2-1 on the road; Wild - 3-1-0 at home.


Associated Press
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