Gaborik a No-Go in Return to Minny Tonight


Written on 10/30/2009 by Jim Cerny

Let it not be said that Marian Gaborik did not hit the ice in his return to Minnesota for the first time as a member of the New York Rangers.

He skated. He laughed with teammates. He fired shots on goal.

I was there. I saw it all.

Unfortunately there were 18,064 empty seats at the Xcel Energy Center at the time Gaborik was on the ice. And it was seven hours or so before game time.

No, Marian Gaborik will not be playing this evening when the Rangers face the Wild. A right knee injury suffered during last Monday's 5-2 win over Phoenix at Madison Square Garden will keep him out of the lineup, just as it did for Wednesday's ugly 3-1 loss on Long Island.

This morning marked the first time that Gaborik skated since Monday. He said that the knee felt better once it warmed up, but he wasn't sure when he'd be able to return to the Rangers lineup.

Gaborik is very disappointed that he will not be able to play against his former team tonight. He was the face of the Wild organization for its first eight years, and he is the club's all-time leader in goals (219) and points (437).

"It's very disappointing," Gaborik stated this morning, while standing in the odd surroundings of the visitors' dressing room at the Xcel and not the Wild's more familiar room. "I tried to push myself in order to have a good feel, but it's just  not there. I don't think I'd be a piece to the puzzle tonight. If it had been any other game, I wouldn't even think about (playing), but, obviously, this was a special game."

That Gaborik---who is off to a tremendous start this season with ten goals (tied for 2nd most in the NHL) and 18 points (3rd most)---is unable to play in his return to Minnesota is more than ironic, of course. Since the lockout, he missed 121 of the Wild's 328 games due to injury. Most of the games missed were because of nagging groin and hip issues which are unrelated to this knee injury, and were supposedly corrected by surgery that limited him to 17 games a year ago.

Many fans in Minnesota hold a certain bitterness towards Gaborik, labeling him soft and injury-prone, preferring to remember his numerous games missed as opposed to the five 30-goal seasons. It is part of what made his return here to The State of Hockey today so intriguing. That, and the fact that Minnessotoans did  not take kindly to his "money grab" this summer, leaving for the bright lights and greenbacks of Broadway.

"He'd get booed for sure, no doubt about it," Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck stated this morning.

"That's not my comment," laughed diplomatic Wild captain Mikko Koivu when Clutterbuck, seated at the next locker, provided his opinion. "I don't know what would happen. It's tough to say."

Aaron Voros, a popular former member of the Wild who is in his second year with the Rangers, praised the fans in Minnesota as being extremely intelligent hockey people. And he is not so sure they would boo his good friend Gaborik if he was able to play this evening.

"I'd be surprised if they booed him," said Voros. "He brought a lot to this organization. He spent eight years playing through injuries, scoring goals. He was probably the most recognizable face of the franchise for eight years. I think for them to boo him would be really unfortunate."

Gaborik was able to catch up with some of his former teammates upon arriving last night. In fact he took in dinner with long-time teammate Andrew Brunette, among others.

"The weather when you get off the plane doesn't change much," Gaborik joked about the grey skies and rain that greeted the Rangers when they arrived yesterday in Minneapolis/St. Paul. "It's special to come back into this building. And I've seen a few guys, nice to see them, obviously. We talked about old times. I had a lot of fun with them."

"I'm probably partial because I played with him a long time, and I know how good he is, but I always thought something would get done the whole time," Brunette explained of Gaborik's not re-signing with the Wild. "It was a little disappointing. But you move on. It's part of the deal, right?"

Ironically, the Rangers last visit to the Xcel Energy Center was on December 20, 2007. The Wild won that game 6-3. Marian Gaborik scored five goals and recorded six points in a masterful performance that evening.

"That was a fun night to be on the other end," noted Voros, who played alongside Gaborik for Minnesota in that game.

No such luck in seeing another virtuoso Gaborik performance this evening, though.


Seperate from Marian Gaborik not being able to play tonight, the Rangers will also be without forwards Sean Avery and Christopher Higgins, who both were nicked up in Wednesday's loss to the Islanders. In case you are counting, that is three of the Rangers top six forwards out of the lineup tonight.

Rugged Dane Byers has been recalled from Hartford in the American Hockey League and will play this evening. PA Parenteau, who was recalled from Hartford on Tuesday and scored his first NHL goal the next night, will also play, as will Donald Brashear, who has been in and out of the lineup due to injury.

"This is a chance for some guys to get more ice time and show what they can do," said Brashear. "It's a long season, you have challenges that come up like this."

"We'd like to keep our lineup healthy all the way through," Rangers coach John Tortorella said this morning. "But it's not going to happen. There's always another side to it. Do we want to remain healthy? Yes. But now this helps me see what we have in the minors."


The latest addition of Rangers Radio is available on the New York Rangers official web site. No guest this week, but Steve Gelbs and I tackle the latest news, and share some interesting anecdotes along the way.

Remember that each episode of Rangers Radio can be downloaded and remains up on the Rangers web site for future listening pleasure!

Next week, Hockey Hall of Famer Andy Bathgate will be our guest, and will answer your questions!

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