| Marian Gaborik scored 38 goals in 65 games last year. How many can he score with Pavol Demitra as his linemate? |
Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik have been skating together all summer in their hometown of Trencin, Slovakia. This week, they skated for the first time knowing that they would be Minnesota Wild teammates when the National Hockey League season begins on October 5.
They learned this very early on Sunday morning in Slovakia when they received phone calls with the news that Demitra was traded to Minnesota for Patrick O’Sullivan and the 17th overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
The two are best friends, former teammates and offensive powers. They have another thing in common as well…they are both thrilled to be paired up.
“I got the phone call and the first five minutes, I was just quiet…totally shocked,” admitted Demitra. “I called Marian right away. He was very excited about it, I could tell. I think it’s going to be great, getting a chance to play with him, one of my best buddies.”
“We kind of click and I know we can help each other.”
And what were Gaborik’s feelings on the deal? It’s not hard to imagine.
“I was very excited,” said the Wild’s all-time leading scorer. “He’s a great player, a great guy and I’m looking forward to playing with him. I think the Wild made a great step for the team to step it up a bit, and I’m very happy about that, especially that it’s Pavol.”
The two have played together in the past, but the entire world could see what they can do together when they were paired on a line at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. Playing on a line together, Demitra scored twice and assisted five times in six games. Gaborik finished the tournament with three goals and four assists.
In phone interviews on Tuesday, both players repeatedly mentioned how close they are. So the obvious question is whether or not this will help get Gaborik, a restricted free agent who will be able to test the free agency waters next season, signed to a long-term deal?
Count Demitra as another among the throngs of people hoping Gaborik and the Wild can work out a deal.
| Demitra (38) and Gaborik (hidden) combined for five goals and nine assists in six Olympic games with Slovakia. |
“He better,” joked Demitra. “I know he loves Minnesota. It’s his home. They showed him they care, and they want to have a great team that makes the playoffs. I hope this will help to sign him for a long time.”
Gaborik wouldn’t say whether or not this will bump up the process, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
“We’ll see what’s going to happen, but it’s a big step forward from the Wild. I’m glad the team will be better. Obviously, that can help.”
In his first season with the Kings, Demitra helped the team get off to a great start. When he suffered his injuries, the team predictably fell out of playoff contention. Demitra says the leg and eye injuries that led to him missing 24 games are completely healed and do not affect his play.
“I feel great,” he said. “The only thing I was worried about was my eye, but now it is feeling good. The doctors saw me and everything is clear. I don’t have any problems, and I’ve been practicing for the last three weeks and doing everything I was doing before.”
Demitra is known for being a calming presence on and off the ice. That could be yet another asset considering Gaborik’s on-ice disposition, which he admits his “impulsive.”
“He’s calm and thinks on the ice,” said Gaborik. “He’s basically the brain of the whole hockey team. He’s going to be a big plus in the room.”
The two met when Gaborik was 16 years old and playing for the Trencin team that Demitra has an ownership stake in. He knew early on that Gaborik was going to be a special player.
“It’s the first time I’ll get to play with someone like that, and I think it’s going to be awesome,” said Demitra on playing with such a close friend. “We can be so dangerous on the ice and we can definitely help the team win the game. You just have get him the puck at the right time and nobody can catch him.”
With the free agency period looming this weekend, the Wild could make more moves to bolster a lineup that quickly turned dangerous.
“It’s up to the team and we’ll see how they’re going to think,” said Gaborik. “They made a great couple of moves with the trade and signing (Petteri) Nummelin. I think they’re not done yet. That’s my opinion.”
Demitra is of the opinion that the Wild is now a legitimate threat to make a run in the postseason.
“I think so,” said the former St. Louis Blue, who has played 66 career playoff games, all in St. Louis. “I know that if I didn’t get hurt last year, we had a good chance to make the playoffs. I know Minnesota can definitely make the playoffs and do damage there for sure. They’ve got a great system, and I’m going to help. I’m going to help the team to make it.”