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Atlantic: Gaborik's return a big relief to Rangers

Monday, 11.02.2009 / 10:59 AM / Division Notebooks

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

Whew!

That was the collective sigh emanating from Madison Square Garden Sunday. Squeaking by the Boston Bruins, 1-0, might normally justify such emotion, but for the Rangers, the involuntary gasp of relief came when Marian Gaborik scored the game's only goal.

Gaborik, off to a torrid start for New York with 11 goals and 8 assists in 13 games, had missed the Rangers' previous two games, including a return to Gaborik's former port-of-call, Minnesota, with a lower body injury.

Injuries have conspired against Gaborik throughout his NHL career, so seeing him return to the lineup was the primary reason for the Rangers' sense of relief. And, winning never hurts, either.

"Obviously, I am not where I want to be, but I will go out there and help anyway," Gaborik said after the game. "It was a huge team effort. It started with (Henrik Lundqvist). I felt like everybody contributed. It was a huge win."

Indeed. The Rangers lost both games Gaborik missed, falling to the Islanders and Wild and being outscored 6-3 in the process.

"That is why we made the deal," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of Gaborik. "We felt we needed a game-breaker and I think that helps you win games consistently."

Quite a month in Pittsburgh -- The first month of the 2009-10 season is in the books and was one the Pittsburgh Penguins would dearly love to replicate the rest of the way.

The Pens have completely dismissed the term "Stanley Cup hangover" from their vocabulary by putting together a terrific start to the new season. The Penguins have tied the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers and 1992-93 Penguins for the most points after 10 games by a defending champion (18, 9-1-0) and finishing the month with the Eastern Conference's top record (11-3-0). Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury went 9-2-0 with a 2.07 goals-against average and .918 save percentage, while captain Sidney Crosby led the club with 9 goals and 16 points.

About the only blemish on October for the Pens was the strained shoulder injury that will sideline Evgeni Malkin for a time.

Night to remember --
Marty Biron had to wait for his 200th career victory, but the wait made it all the sweeter for the New York Islanders goalie Saturday night as he posted a shutout against the Buffalo Sabres, the team he joined the NHL with during the 1995-96 season.

The win also was his first as an Islander.

"It's been a while," Biron told NHL.com's Brian Compton. "This was my sixth game this year. I had one (chance) last year (with the Flyers) before the end of the season to try to get it. Not that I was focusing on it, but it's fun to know that it's there. To be able to say, 'OK … we finally broke the ice to get some more wins,' that's a good thing. It took a little longer than I wanted, but we'll take them. Hopefully, I can keep working the same way and we'll get there."

Biron is now 1-5 this season with two of the defeats coming in ovettime.

"I think I've been getting better every game," said Biron, who lowered his goals-against average to 2.92 and raised his save percentage to .911 in his first win. "I'm slowly getting to the way I want to play. It's good to get the guys a bit of a confidence boost."
    
At home on the road -- You look at the New Jersey Devils' record and shake your head. A 7-0-0 mark on the road is awesome. A 1-4-0 mark at home … not so much.

The Devils continued to be unwanted guest Saturday night, taking a 2-1 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning that tied the second-longest road winning streak to start a season in NHL history.

"We've played pretty good the whole time on the road, but I thought we played such a tight game," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said after the win. "We didn't give much to their top guns. They have good talent, they've got skills, and if you give them room you're in trouble."

"We're doing a lot of good things on the road," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner told the Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti. "I think we played pretty darn well (Saturday). We could have had three goals in that first period while limiting them to three shots. We had two backdoor things and a penalty shot and other breakaways, so we easily could have had three goals while we were still limiting their chances. So, we obviously did a lot of good things."

But Lemaire isn't as excited, based on the poor home record, which will be tested again Wednesday when Washington comes to town.

"I'm not impressed because we can't win at home," Lemaire said. "That's why we're lucky that we're getting these wins here. The way we're playing at home, we've got to play better. It's that simple. If we would get our share of wins at home and do this, then it's exciting. Right now, it's not at all. We need these points because we're going back home."

Flyers hurting -- The injury bug is biting at the Flyers in a big way these days. Danny Briere is struggling with a groin strain and defenseman Ryan Parent had to leave Saturday's win over the Carolina Hurricanes with an injury. He had missed the previous four games with a lower body injury.

And Simon Gagne is considering what to do about the two hernias he has been dealing with.

"Danny Briere was diagnosed with a slight (right) groin strain. He is listed as day-to-day. The doctors are still evaluating all the tests Simon Gagne has gone through over the past few days, [and] we plan to talk tomorrow morning to discuss the best way to handle Simon's injury."
-- Flyers GM Paul Holmgren

"Danny Briere was diagnosed with a slight (right) groin strain," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said. "He is listed as day-to-day. The doctors are still evaluating all the tests Simon Gagne has gone through over the past few days, [and] we plan to talk tomorrow morning to discuss the best way to handle Simon's injury."

Credit rookie David Laliberte for stepping in and making a good impression for the Flyers. He was recalled from the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms and played in his first NHL game Saturday, scoring a goal and an assist.

A fourth round draft pick in 2004, it took him all of 12 minutes and 30 seconds to record his first goal in the NHL, when he knocked in a rebound to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead at the time.

"It feels great. It was my second shift," Laliberte, a fourth-round pick in 2004, told Kevin Kurz of the team's Web site. "I was in good position and the puck just came to my stick.

"I didn't have the chance think. It was just instinct to shoot. I'm very happy."

"It's nice to see a kid like 'Lallie' because he's come in, spent some time in the East Coast league, worked his way into the American league and just has kind of gotten better and better, and really moved himself up the depth chart," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "He's got a great attitude, he works extremely hard, and he's got a good skill level that allows him to play with skilled players.  

Laliberte became the first Flyer to score his first goal in his first game since Mike Richards did it on opening night, Oct. 5, 2005 against the Rangers. He's the first Flyer since Justin Williams on Oct. 5, 2000 against Vancouver to record multiple points in his debut.
Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis