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Atlantic: Healthy Gaborik showing sharp skills

by Phil Coffey
So far, so good.

Heading into Monday's game with the Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers were off to a very solid 4-1-0 record. Leading the way offensively with 4 goals and 3 assists was Marian Gaborik.

Gaborik is one of the most talented players around, but talk about his NHL career centers too much on a string of debilitating injuries and not the wonderful talents that made him the third pick of the 2000 Entry Draft.

The talented forward was limited to 17 games last season with the Minnesota Wild and just 48 games in 2006-07. So, it was a gamble when the Rangers signed him this summer, a gamble whose results won't be realized until we see how many games and how well he plays during the course of the season. But the early returns are very encouraging.

Already, Gaborik has shown the ability to produce in the clutch, scoring in the third period of close games.

"You need to put more energy into keeping a track of a guy like (Gaborik)," goalie Henrik Lundqvist told "We had one of those guys here when we had (Jaromir) Jagr."

"It's why players like him are so special," teammate Chris Drury, minutes after Gaborik paved the way to a win against Washington. "They can change the game on one play - and on one shot."

Gaborik often has been missing from the conversation when the NHL's top, young players are discussed. But there is little question that when healthy, he deserves mention with the big guns like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pat Kane.

"I've had a couple of (players) in my years coaching where it's just uncanny how (the puck) follows them around," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "The puck follows him around. You look at some of the goals he scored … it follows him. That's offensive instincts, something you can't teach."
Tortorella, however is all about total play, not just goals, and Gaborik has passed the tests here as well.

"The thing I like about him right now, he's working hard in other areas," Tortorella said. "He made some mistakes away from the puck, but I think he's shown it's a two-way street on the other side of that puck. That's when good things happen offensively."
"We seem to understand each other well out there," Gaborik said. "It's just a matter of communication and making sure we know where we stand out there. ... If we can be a little better defensively we can create a lot of 2-on-1's, 3-on-2's."
For Sid, it's inevitable -- Like Magic and Bird and Montana and Marino, Sidney Crosby realizes he and Alex Ovechkin always are going to be linked and compared. It's just part of the territory,

"It's not something I personally need but I accept it," Crosby told Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun. "It's great for hockey if there is competition like that.

"To sit here and say we're the same, well, we're not. There's nothing wrong with that. It doesn't mean one is better than the other. We're different."

And Crosby was quick to point out that winning a Stanley Cup hasn't given him a leg up in the comparisons.

"He's a great player," Crosby said. "Just because he has not won a Stanley Cup doesn't mean anything."

Elias on comeback trail -- According to Tom Gullitti's excellent blog on all things Devils -- Fire and Ice the Devils may get a needed offensive boost in the near future.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told Gulitti left wing Patrik Elias is continuing to skate on his own back in New Jersey. He did not know when Elias, who resumed skating on Tuesday after having groin surgery on Sept. 15, will be ready to practice with the team.

"Everything is progressing," Lamoriello said. "He's been skating every day since he started [on Tuesday] and will continue to do so."

Brother, can you spare a finisher -- Growing pains are inevitable on a team with as many young players as the Islanders, but that still doesn't make it fun. Three games into the season, the Isles are 0-0-3, and have seen leads disappear in a flash.

The Islanders led the Bruins 3-0 in Boston Saturday with just more than eight minutes left in regulation. Three quick Boston goals later, the game was tied -- and after the Bruins beat Dwayne Roloson twice in the shootout, the Islanders were heading home with a stunning 4-3 loss.

The Islanders have gotten a point in all three of their games -- but lost two in shootouts and one in overtime. They've blown third-period leads in both of the shootout losses.

"If we look back at the start of the year and said to ourselves, 'We could be 3-0 with a bounce here or there,' we'd be happy with that, but it's obviously hurts to not get the two points tonight," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said after the loss to Boston

Sour birthday for Pronger -- Saturday night in Philadelphia had all the making of a birthday bash for Chris Pronger.

He was going to celebrate his 35th with a game against his former team, the Anaheim Ducks. And Pronger came within 16 seconds of blowing out the candles with a win, until Anaheim rallied back and won in a shootout.

Pronger did get a present when he scored against the Ducks, ripping a blast from the point that deflected off Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski and got past Jonas Hiller at 13:58 of the second for his first goal of the season.

"I don't know if it's satisfying," said Pronger, who was a member of the Ducks' 2007 championship team but was dealt to Philadelphia at the Entry Draft in June. "It's good to get the goose-egg off the board. We got a point, but we deserved probably two."

But Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer, with whom Pronger shared the 2007 Stanley Cup with, took care of that.

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