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Kings coach Sutter praises Gaborik's contributions

by Corey Masisak

LOS ANGELES -- Marian Gaborik has been seen as a divisive player during his 13 years in the NHL.

At times an electric scorer at a level few can match, and at times perceived as a frustrating player because of inconsistency or injury, there have always seemed to be a wide range of opinions about Gaborik.

Darryl Sutter doesn't seem like a guy who is too worried about things like that, and his experiences coaching Gaborik since he joined the Los Angeles Kings before the NHL Trade Deadline this season seem to reinforce that.

"Zero," Sutter said when asked what he had to adjust in Gaborik's game. "I talked to [Gaborik] when we got him in Winnipeg. I told him he was playing with [Anze Kopitar] and I'm not going to go out of my way to change the way he plays. Just give him a basic guideline. I said a couple days after we got him his hockey IQ is off the charts, so he can adjust in a hurry. He's been an easy guy, quite honest, to deal with.

"Everybody will say he's just a goal-scorer. He's more than just a goal-scorer. Other than early in his career and this year with the collarbone (injury), he's been a real durable guy who's played lots of minutes, lots of situations. He can play both wings. I know I was asked at the start, and there are assumptions and opinions that have been had, but I don't think those people were right."

Gaborik scored 41 goals in 2011-12 for the New York Rangers, and that was the third season he had at least 40. Eight players have at least three 40-goal seasons since 2000-01, and six are active in the NHL (Gaborik, Alex Ovechkin, Dany Heatley, Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa and Steven Stamkos).

Gaborik had 12 goals in 47 games last season, and was traded from New York to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He had six goals in 22 games this season for Columbus, and missed a large chunk of time, including the 2014 Sochi Olympics, because of a broken collarbone.

Moving to Los Angeles has been a fresh start for Gaborik, who leads the Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight goals. He and Kopitar, who leads the League with 16 postseason points, have formed a productive partnership.

Gaborik scored twice in Game 5 of this Western Conference Second Round series against the Anaheim Ducks, but a 4-3 defeat left the Kings one loss from elimination before Game 6 on Wednesday at Staples Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

"Those guys [like Kopitar] are very hard to find," Gaborik said. "I don't think he gets the credit he should around the League. He's one of the top two-way players out there. It's been fun to play with him, of course. We have to bring it [Wednesday] and get [the series] back to Anaheim."

Gaborik is an unrestricted free agent in July, and his playoff performance is certainly not going to hurt his value. He will be one of the top forwards available if the Kings do not take him off the market beforehand.

The other top wings available could include Iginla of the Boston Bruins, Thomas Vanek of the Montreal Canadiens, and Matt Moulson of the Minnesota Wild. Gaborik has scored more goals per game since 2007-08 than each of those three, and is tied with Vanek for the most in that group in the past three seasons.

If Gaborik were to stay with the Kings, it is a destination that has suited his game.

"It does seem like we fit pretty well. I think a guy like Marian, there's not too many secrets," Kopitar said. "He's been in the League a long time and he's been doing the same stuff over and over, so it's not hard to figure out what his strengths are. … He's obviously been our top goal-scorer. I got to give him the puck more. We're going to need him again [Wednesday] and everyone else is going to try and chip in."

Here are the projected lineups:


Devante Smith-PellyRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Andrew CoglianoSaku KoivuJakob Silfverberg

Patrick MaroonMathieu PerreaultTeemu Selanne

Daniel WinnikNick BoninoKyle Palmieri

Cam FowlerBen Lovejoy

Hampus LindholmFrancois Beauchemin

Bryan AllenSami Vatanen

John Gibson

Jonas Hiller

Scratched: Rickard Rakell, Mark Fistric, Luca Sbisa

Injured: Matt Beleskey (lower body), Frederik Andersen (lower body), Stephane Robidas (leg), Tim Jackman (hand)


Marian GaborikAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tanner PearsonJeff CarterTyler Toffoli

Trevor Lewis - Jarret StollJustin Williams

Dwight KingMike RichardsJordan Nolan

Jake MuzzinDrew Doughty

Jeff SchultzSlava Voynov

Alec MartinezMatt Greene

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Scratched: Colin Fraser, Nick Shore, Scott Sabourin, Brayden McNabb, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Linden Vey, Jordan Weal, Colin Miller, Andy Andreoff, Andrew Campbell, Derek Forbort

Injured: Willie Mitchell (undisclosed), Robyn Regehr (undisclosed)

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