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Wild 4, Predators, 2 @NHL

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Wild honored the late Sergei Zholtok with an emotional pregame program Saturday night.

Zholtok's 16-year-old son, Edgar, was presented with a framed jersey his father wore for the Wild from 2001-04 - when he had 110 points in 210 games as a right wing and became one of the team's leaders and most popular players.

Zholtok died last year at 31 in former teammate Darby Hendrickson's arms while playing for a team in his native Latvia, when his heart failed near the end of a game in Belarus during the NHL lockout. Zholtok had missed seven games in January 2003, while with the Wild, because of an irregular heartbeat.

Edgar Zholtok wiped away tears, and Wild captain Filip Kuba put his arm around him. The boy dropped the ceremonial first puck after a video highlighting Zholtok's life was shown on the scoreboard.

Former Minnesota defenseman Brad Bombardir conducted the traditional ``Let's Play Hockey'' chant, encouraging fans to be loud enough ``so Sergei can hear.''

Zholtok also played in the NHL for Boston, Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton, totaling 111 goals and 147 assists. He finished the 2003-04 in Nashville after a trade that March. The Predators played the Wild on Saturday night, and both teams wore ``SZ'' stickers on their helmets. There also was a display of commemorative Zholtok memorabilia near one of the gates at Xcel Energy Center.

Zholtok, one of only three Latvians to play in the NHL, had a career-best 26 goals for the Canadiens in 1999-00 and was a member of the Latvian team that won the silver medal in the 1994 world championships. While many NHL players skip the worlds each spring, Zholtok regularly suited up for his home country - where he was a celebrity.

Zholtok also is survived by wife Anna and 5-year-old son Nikita.


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