No one disputes Marian Gaborik
's skill. It's his health that always seems to be the main topic when it comes to the sublimely skilled Slovak forward.
That had to be on the mind of New York Rangers
GM Glen Sather
, who still signed Gaborik to an oft-questioned five-year contract this summer. Through the first two games of the season, however, he's made Sather look like a genius, scoring two goals, adding an assist and dominating nearly every shift against Pittsburgh and Ottawa.
On Saturday against the Senators, Gaborik's presence on a pair of second-period odd-man rushes drew defenders his way, allowing linemates Vaclav Prospal
and Brandon Dubinsky
to score goals in the Rangers' 5-2 victory.
In the third period, he followed Dubinsky's shot and banged a rebound between Pascal Leclaire
's pads. It was similar to the goal he scored Friday against Pittsburgh, when he followed Prospal through the slot and knocked in a loose puck.
"If you can draw some people on you, the other two guys can get some open ice and try to (score), as well," he said. "It's not just working with the puck. I should try to get open and create room for the other guys, as well. If we help each other out there, do little give and go's, we can make a lot of things happen."
"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."
More than offense, Tortorella has been impressed with Gaborik's all-around play.
"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."
Gaborik's line has five of the Rangers' seven goals this season.
"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."
They'll have the opportunity to do just that. Gaborik played a team-high 24:26 against Pittsburgh and 22:11 against Ottawa; Prospal and Dubinsky played similar minutes.
"He's going to get it," Tortorella said of the ice time, which is more than the 19:59 he averaged last season with the Wild. "Your top players need to be on that ice to make a difference, one way or another. They're going to help us win a game or help us lose a game. But they're going to be on the ice."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.