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Gaborik embraces his new life as a Ranger

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
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Rangers Show Up Early to Prep for Camp

By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com

For the past nine years, ever since he was the team’s first-ever draft selection, Marian Gaborik was the face of the Minnesota Wild franchise. Now Gaborik is set to embark on a new chapter in his career, as a New York Ranger, and he could not be any happier.

“It’s a new challenge and a new opportunity, and I am looking forward to it,” said Gaborik after taking part in an informal skate with his new teammates on Tuesday morning at the MSG Training Center.

Gaborik arrived in New York from his native Slovakia on Aug. 25 to become better acclimated to his new surroundings. After spending the previous nine seasons in Minnesota, he must now adjust to a new home, new city, new coach, and new teammates, among other things.

But instead of being intimidated by change, Gaborik has embraced it and is eager to begin his New York experience.

“I had a great time there (in Minnesota) for nine years, but now I turn the page and am looking forward to New York,” said Gaborik. “It’s a different vibe than Minnesota, and a different city, as well. I’m really excited about this opportunity.”

One of the most sought-after players on the NHL free agent market this past summer, Gaborik agreed to terms on a multiyear deal with the Rangers on the evening of July 1. Since the Wild had not made an effort to sign him prior to free agency, Gaborik had made peace with the fact that his days in Minnesota would come to an end.

And when it was the Rangers who were able to land the Slovak sniper, Gaborik instantly became excited about the prospect of playing under the bright lights of Broadway.

“I am looking forward to being in New York, but for me hockey comes first,” said Gaborik, who is the Wild’s all-time leader in goals (219), assists (218), and points (437). “I just want to play and help the team win. That’s all.”

The solidly-built 6-foot-1, 200 pound winger can certainly help the Rangers win some games if he continues to do what he has done best throughout his career, so far, and that is to produce offensively.

One of the most exciting players in the sport, Gaborik -- who once potted five goals in a contest against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers in December 2007 -- has produced five 30-goal seasons in the National Hockey League. He notched a career-best 42 for the Wild in 2007-08.

That Gaborik has had such success while playing his entire career up until this point for an extremely defensive-minded head coach like Jacques Lemaire is all the more impressive. Now Gaborik will get the opportunity to play in a much more up-tempo, attacking offensive style under John Tortorella.

“He seems like an offensive-minded coach,” Gaborik, 27, said of Tortorella. “Obviously, though, we have to take care of things defensively. But I don’t have a problem with that since I played in Minnesota for nine years.

“(Tortorella) won a Stanley Cup in Tampa, so obviously he is a good coach. I have heard he is a really intense guy who tries to push his players to the maximum. I think it will be good.”

Marian Gaborik was all smiles after scoring five goals in a Minnesota home game against the Rangers two seasons ago. Should he have a night like that at MSG this season, he's sure to become an instant legend with the Garden Faithful.
Last season, Gaborik played in only 17 games because of an in-season surgery to correct recurring groin and hip problems that had plagued him throughout his tenure in Minnesota. Despite playing so few games in 2008-09, he still was impressive offensively, scoring 13 goals -- nearly one per game -- and recording 23 points.

Ten of his goals last season, and 18 of his points, were posted in the 11 games that Gaborik played after returning from his surgery. That was evidence to the Rangers that Gaborik was indeed healthy again. And it also provided some peace of mind for the player himself.

“It was very important for me because I really pushed it as much as I could,” said Gaborik, who was the third overall selection in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. “I’m glad I got out there. And then after the season I took care of the leg and tried to make it stronger.”

While taking part in the informal pre-training camp workouts with his new Blueshirt brethren, Gaborik has felt nothing but healthy.

“I am skating free,” stated Gaborik. “Obviously it is still before training camp and I still have to tune things up, but I feel good and excited.”

A healthy and productive Gaborik is a sure bet to provide much excitement for years to come at Madison Square Garden.

“I haven’t played at MSG very often, but when I did it was always a great atmosphere, so it’s got to be even better when you are playing for the Rangers. It’s going to be a fun ride.”
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