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Gaborik ready for fresh start with Blue Jackets

by John Manasso

NASHVILLE -- Marian Gaborik did not arrive here for his first game as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets until almost 10 p.m. Central Time on Wednesday after being traded by the New York Rangers.

He did not meet his new teammates -- some of whom are old acquaintances from the Rangers -- until Thursday morning when the Blue Jackets held their morning skate at Bridgestone Arena. In all, he said it was a hectic day.

Marian Gaborik
Right Wing - CBJ
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 19
SOG: 113 | +/-: -8
Because of the last-minute nature of the timing, Columbus coach Todd Richards decided to make things simple for the right wing for his first on-ice session with his new team. Richards put Gaborik on a line with some familiar faces, center Artem Anisimov and left wing Vinny Prospal -- the three played briefly together as a line with the Rangers.

"We had some good games together in New York, so hopefully we can carry it over to here," said Gaborik, who was acquired with a couple of minor leaguers for John Moore, Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett. "Work hard and enjoy ourselves also out there and do whatever it takes."

Perhaps the reason the Rangers elected to move Gaborik was that he was no longer enjoying himself on Broadway, which might have reflected in the three-time 40-goal scorer's play. In 35 games this season, Gaborik had nine goals and 10 assists with a minus-8 rating.

Gaborik was asked if he would miss Rangers coach John Tortorella, a legendary taskmaster. Gaborik took his time and answered carefully, but was conspicuous for what he did not say.

"I had him for four years," he said. "We had some good conversations. … I enjoyed playing there. That's his style of coaching. I wish those guys only good luck. I enjoyed my time there and want to thank the organization and coaching staff and players and fans. They gave me the opportunity to play there."

Another former Rangers player, Brandon Dubinsky, described the difference in coaching style that Richards has brought to the Blue Jackets, who are a relative surprise as they enter Thursday two points out of the Western Conference's final Stanley Cup Playoff berth.

"He's going to rectify [problems] and demand the most out of [players]," Dubinsky said. "Just a little different coaching style. Not screaming and yelling, if you will, but more talking and teaching."

For his part, Richards was low-key in his demeanor, but his words betrayed his excitement at his team's new acquisition.

"This is one of these times as a coach and former player that you really miss playing in these big games," he said.

Richards said he detected a different buzz from everyone, including the media.

"I sense it from you guys," Richards said. "It wasn't just the players. There's an excitement whenever these things happen. It's a credit to the players, because they put themselves in this position and now management has brought in players to get to the next level -- and try to get to the next level -- and that's what you want when you're a player or when you're a coach. It's up to us now as players and coaches now. We're all excited. You could sense the energy on the room."

The management to which Richards referred was a part of why Gaborik agreed to waive his no-trade clause to come to the Blue Jackets. Gaborik said he did his homework, talking to his former Rangers teammates before deciding, but he also was impressed with president of hockey operations John Davidson, who turned around the St. Louis Blues before taking over the Blue Jackets in October.

"Yeah, of course, I talked to him," Gaborik said. "He seemed like he turned that team around. He came here, so I think they're on the right track. Looking forward to being a part of it."

Davidson flew Wednesday to the New York area to pick up Gaborik, a move the player appreciated.

"Of course, they picked me up in the plane," he said. "Very classy move, was very nice. We got to talk a little bit on the flight. I'm looking forward to it."

When Davidson made his pitch to Gaborik -- before Davidson had closed the deal -- he told him about what he thought was going right with the Blue Jackets. One key component has been goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who ranks second in the League in save percentage (.927) and sixth in goals-against average (2.13).

Natural goal-scoring ability -- that was something the Blue Jackets lacked.

"He said they had some trouble putting the puck in the net, so hopefully that can change right now," Gaborik said. "We're in the hunt to make the playoffs, so hopefully we can do everything we can to make it."

Gaborik getting his game back on track would be a great start.

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