Marian Gaborik is back, and the timing may be ideal for the Minnesota Wild. They're in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race and will be without their top scorer for at least a week.
Gaborik will try to help Minnesota move into a playoff position and withstand the absence of Mikko Koivu on Tuesday night when it opens a four-game road trip against the New York Rangers.
Gaborik, who has missed 94 games since 2005 due to injuries, returned to Wild lineup Sunday, taking six shots but going pointless in a 3-0 win over Edmonton.
It was the All-Star right wing's first game since having hip surgery on Dec. 28 and only his seventh of the season. That inactivity combined with his impending free agency this offseason have drawn the ire of Wild fans even though he is the franchise's all-time leader with 209 goals and 419 points.
"I was a little nervous before the game, but as soon as I hit the ice, everything went well," said Gaborik, who rejected a contract extension during training camp.
Gaborik's return, though, might be rather timely with Koivu to miss at least a week due to a knee injury after being taken down by the Oilers' Ales Kotalik on Sunday.
"He's been so solid for us," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said of Koivu. "He's a player that makes the other players better by playing with him."
Koivu leads Minnesota with 62 points and could possibly miss the club's remaining 10 regular-season games - six on the road.
"I don't know if he's going to get back," Lemaire said, adding: "All of it is in the air right now."
The Wild, 0-2-2 in their last four road games, are tied for ninth with Anaheim in the West standings, one point behind eighth-place Nashville, which hosts the Ducks on Tuesday.
"We're in desperate mode right now and have to get everything we can," said Wild right wing Owen Nolan, who scored two goals Sunday for a team-high 22 on the season.
The Wild have won three of the last four meetings with the Rangers. However, they haven't faced New York since a 6-3 win on Dec. 20, 2007, and last played at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5, 2005 - a 3-1 defeat.
The Rangers, seventh in the East, are looking to rebound from a 2-1 loss to Ottawa that snapped a three-game winning streak.
"It clearly wasn't our night," captain Chris Drury said. "There are going to be times when you don't have it. The key is how you respond to it and bounce back."
New York could use some increased production on the struggling power play after going 0-for-6 against the Senators. The unit, which ranks last in the conference with a 14.4 percent conversion rate, is 1-for-12 in the last three games after scoring three times on nine opportunities in a 4-1 win over Philadelphia on March 15.
The Rangers, though, continue getting strong contributions from Ryan Callahan, who had an assist Sunday following a two-goal performance the previous night. The rugged right wing has a career-high six-game point streak during which he's totaled four goals and four assists.
Callahan is third on the team with 19 goals and has 33 points - both career highs.
The Rangers have scored first in each of their last six games (4-2-0).