ST. PAUL, Minn. - Marian Gaborik's long recovery from hip surgery got a little bit shorter on Monday when he returned to the Twin Cities to get ready to rejoin the Minnesota Wild.
The star winger has missed all but six games this season and had surgery in January to repair a torn labrum and damaged cartilage in his left hip that was causing chronic groin problems.
Gaborik spent the next eight weeks in Colorado to begin rehabilitating, and now is back in St. Paul to ramp up his workouts and return to a team that desperately needs his scoring punch.
"I'm going to come back and skate hard, skate with the gear on and obviously progress; and when that time will come I'm definitely looking forward to it," Gaborik said. "So hopefully it's going to be towards the end of the month and, hopefully, earlier. We'll see how everything feels and so far everything feels good. I'm really confident about the situation and going forward."
After having the same procedure done on his right hip last summer, Gaborik started experiencing more and more pain at the start of the season. General manager Doug Risebrough said he would have liked to see Gaborik try to play through it, but the 26-year-old who is in the final year of his contract decided to have the second surgery in hopes of putting this issue behind him for good.
"That's what I hope," Gaborik said. "That's what the doctor hopes and I really feel strong about that. It's been a chronic problem, and things are looking very good. So that's what I believe."
Doctors told him it would take 10 to 14 weeks to recover, and Gaborik said Monday he feels like he is "ahead of schedule."
He also said he has no regrets about turning down Minnesota's offers of a long-term contract extension last off-season after registering career highs in goals (42), assists (41), points (83) and plus-minus (17) in 77 games to lead the Wild to their first division title in franchise history.
The return of his injury problems likely have seriously damaged his value on the open market.
"What happened, happened. I'm not looking back, I'm just looking at what's ahead," Gaborik said. "I'm very happy I had this procedure done. I think it's going to bring me to another level and to feel better than ever. That's how I feel. I'm confident and things are looking good."
The Wild certainly could use a healthy version of their best offensive player. After two straight losses, the Wild are in 10th place in the Western Conference and are averaging just 2.48 goals per game, good for 26th in the league.
Minnesota kicks off a difficult road trip on Tuesday in Vancouver and also plays at San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim during the stretch. Gaborik will begin skating on his own, in full pads, at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday.
"Obviously this is a tough road trip and I wish I could help," he said. "But I just have to wait and come back at the right time and come back strong. I don't want to just come back to come back. I want to come back when I really feel I can contribute and be a big piece."
The trade deadline is Wednesday, and the team was shopping him early in the season before he got injured again in hopes of getting some compensation for him rather than risk him leaving in free agency this summer. Now that his health is improving, Gaborik was asked if he could still be traded.
"I haven't really thought about it. I have a contract," Gaborik said. "I know I'm a free agent July 1. I can't really control what the team is going to do. I'm focusing on how I'm feeling, my rehab and my training. Just really focused that I come back strong and healthier than ever."
Could a stronger, healthier Gaborik stay in Minnesota beyond this season?
"We'll see what's going to happen," Gaborik said. "I'm focusing on my health right now and try to get back and go from there. I'm confident in my body and hopefully getting more and more confident once I hit the ice and start playing and we'll go from here."