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Wild's Gaborik to have hip surgery Monday; out 10 weeks

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The Canadian Press
1/2/2009 7:30:01 PM
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - When Marian Gaborik undergoes hip surgery on Monday, his highlight-filled and injury plagued career with the Minnesota Wild could be going right with him.

The star winger will have surgery on his left hip that will keep him out a minimum of 10 weeks, the team said Friday.

The last original member of the Wild, Gaborik is in the final year of his contract and previously turned down offers from the team for a lucrative extension.

General manager Doug Risebrough has been considering trading him this season, but Gaborik has missed 30 of the team's 36 games, which has severely lowered his trade value.

Risebrough declined to comment on Gaborik's future with the team during a conference call with reporters on Friday.

"All I'm worried about is just getting him back and hopefully he's able to play," Risebrough said.

The team called Gaborik's injury a "deficiency" in his hip that has caused his chronic left groin pain.

He had a similar procedure on his right hip last summer, and then was plagued with what the team thought was more groin problems at the start of this season.

Gaborik met with the same doctor who performed the right hip surgery on Dec. 24 and then elected to have the procedure done on his left side. Risebrough said he also could have tried to play through the pain, but Gaborik would not have been his high-flying self while doing so.

"I'm disappointed that he won't be here with us for this point in the season," Risebrough said. "But, you know, this is the choice that Marian has made. So I have no other comment."

The 26-year-old Gaborik's agent, Ron Salcer, said his client has been playing through pain and his doctor told him he "would be playing at his peril" if he continued to do so.

"It's not a grey issue, it's a black-and-white issue," Salcer said. "He's willing to play hurt and he's willing to play through pain. But you have to draw the line when the doctor says he's going to do damage to himself."

It's the latest in a long line of injuries for a player who is perhaps the fastest skater in the league when he is healthy. Since the league lockout in 2005, he has missed 86 games because of upper-leg injuries.

The most recent troubles couldn't have come at a worse time for Gaborik, or the Wild.

After being limited to 48 games in 2006-07, Gaborik played in 77 games last season. He registered career highs in goals (42), assists (41), points (83) and plus-minus (17) to lead the Wild to their first division title in franchise history.

The Wild tried to lock him up with an extension in the off-season, but Gaborik decided to enter the season without one and perhaps become a free agent after the season. But his value on the open market has plummeted with this latest injury, which could keep him out of the remainder of the season.

When asked if it's possible that Gaborik has played his last game for Minnesota, Salcer said, "I wouldn't say that. The Wild is the team he's employed by and we're open to discussions. But we're not thinking about that right now. We're focused on getting him healthy and back on the ice."

The Wild have never missed their most dynamic offensive threat more. Minnesota is averaging just 2.47 goals per game, which is 26th in the league. And only two other teams - Tampa Bay and Ottawa - have scored fewer than the Wild's 89 goals this season.

The Wild entered Friday one point ahead of last-place Edmonton in the Northwest Division and on the outside of the Western Conference's playoff picture.

"Obviously it's not easy to replace Marian," Risebrough said.

Risebrough said the Wild would continue to look at options to acquire offensive talent to fill the void created by Gaborik's absence, but also feels that the primary improvement is going to have to come from within the organization.

"We've got young guys we want to develop," Risebrough said.

Youngsters like James Sheppard and Benoit Pouliot simply haven't shown the progress the Wild were hoping for coming off a first-round loss to Colorado in the playoffs last season.

There was speculation that Risebrough would ship Gaborik off in a trade during the season for some top young skill players to complement captain Mikko Koivu, but that's out the window as well.

The surgery will keep Gaborik out long after the trade deadline has passed. Risebrough hopes his star will return with about 13 games to go, but by then it could be too late to make a playoff run.

Marian Gaborik (Photo: Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
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