The Minnesota Wild can't wait for the face of the franchise to take the ice again.
Star left wing Marian Gaborik may make his return Friday when the Wild host the Detroit Red Wings at the Xcel Energy Center.
Gaborik has not played since Oct. 20 because of a strained groin. He skated with the team at practice for the first time Monday, but the team is being careful not to return him to action too soon because he's had a history of injuries in the past.
The Wild's all-time goal scoring leader with 138, Gaborik missed 17 games last season with groin and hip flexor injuries. Still, he scored a career-high 38 goals and finished with 66 points - one off his career best.
This season, Gaborik had four goals and three assists as the Wild (13-10-1) got off to a franchise-best 6-1 start. Without him in the lineup, Minnesota is 7-9-1 and just 3-8-1 over its last 12 games.
The Wild have 27 points and are in second place in the Northwest Division, one point behind Edmonton.
"Obviously, Marian's going to come back soon and a lot of good things are up ahead," goaltender Manny Fernandez said. "You ask any team, do they need their star player? Obviously they do. Now a lot of our star players are out."
Right wing Pavol Demitra, who has five goals and 10 assists in 20 games and started this season on the top line with Gaborik, has missed four straight games with a concussion.
"I think as soon as one of the guys that are injured will come back, it will give definitely a spark to our team," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said.
Mattias Weinhandl scored Minnesota's only goal in Wednesday's 2-1 loss to San Jose, only the Wild's third at home at home this season.
"The battles were won by them," Lemaire said. "This is the thing we work often on in practices, but it seems like its always the same guys that come out with the puck, and they have the wrong sweater."
The Red Wings (13-6-4) snapped a five-game winless streak Monday with a 2-1 victory over Dallas. Kris Draper and Mathieu Schneider each scored short-handed goals in the third period for Detroit, which had gone 0-2-3 over its last five games.
The Red Wings are tied with Montreal for the league lead with seven short-handed goals, but the are last in the NHL on the power play, converting only 10.5 percent (12 of 114) of their chances.
"As long as we keep scoring short-handed goals, we don't need to score on the power play," Schneider said.
Dominik Hasek finished with 20 saves for his 10th win and is among the league leaders with a 1.98 goals-against average. The six-time Vezina Trophy winner has never lost to the Wild in six career starts, recording four wins, two ties and a 1.30 GAA.
Detroit is 6-1-2 in its last nine matchups against Minnesota. The teams are squaring off for the first time this season and will close out their season series with three games in a five-day span late in December.
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