The Los Angeles Kings have struggled to score goals all season, and few NHL players do it better than a healthy, hungry Marian Gaborik.
The Kings hope that’s just what they’ve got after acquiring the Slovak scoring whiz just before the trade deadline.
Gaborik could be in the lineup against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night for the visiting Kings, who have won five straight to solidify their playoff position.
Los Angeles (35-22-6) sent right wing Matt Frattin and two conditional draft picks to Columbus on Wednesday for Gaborik, who’s finally healthy after an injury-plagued season.
Just as Jeff Carter did two years ago when he left Columbus for Los Angeles in a deadline deal, the Kings hope Gaborik fits right in on their defense-minded roster.
"We’re a very good team, but if you’re looking at what you could add to the mix, I guess it’s fair to say it’s a player who can make something out of nothing with his speed and ability," Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said. "You want to make sure your team has all the weapons necessary, and I think this is one weapon we were lacking."
Lombardi has been circling Gaborik for two months, eager to add one of the NHL’s most gifted goal-scorers to an outstanding defensive team that has scored just 152 goals in 63 games. While the Kings have allowed a league-low 134 goals, Los Angeles’ offense was even more stagnant than usual before the Olympic break, managing just 21 goals in the final 14 games.
Gaborik, who turned 32 on Feb. 14, has three 40-goal seasons in his career and seven 30-goal seasons. Although his finesse and skill don’t immediately seem to be an ideal fit with the hard-nosed, defense-minded Kings, Lombardi is confident Gaborik can mesh at both ends of the ice.
"There’s very few players that are capable of doing what he does in his game," Lombardi said. "There was a very short list for us, and one of the reasons we initiated discussions is he’s one of very few people we thought would be available."
Gaborik has missed games with a sprained knee and a broken collarbone this season, limiting him to just six goals in 22 games and keeping him out of the Olympics. Gaborik is healthy for the stretch run, tallying a goal and an assist in Columbus’ last four games.
The Kings are on the verge of matching their longest winning streak of the season after beating Montreal 2-1 on Monday. Carter put Los Angeles up for good early in the second period with his 250th career goal, and Jonathan Quick made 17 saves to win his season-best fourth consecutive start.
"We’re playing the way I expected us to play coming out of the (Olympic) break," forward Justin Williams said. "We’re playing hard and not giving up leads. We do need to capitalize on more of our chances, but it’s two points we need for playoff position."
The Kings haven’t picked up many points against the Winnipeg franchise lately, going 1-3-2 in the last six meetings. In the Jets’ 5-3 win on Oct. 4, Winnipeg’s Devin Setoguchi had two goals and an assist.
The Jets (30-26-7) sit just outside the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, but they chose to stand pat at the deadline. Winnipeg, which is 11-3-2 since Paul Maurice took over as coach on Jan. 12, is coming off Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders.
"I certainly feel very comfortable standing here today knowing the options that were in front of me, knowing the decisions that I made to move forward with," general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "We’re still going to try to get into this thing."
While impending unrestricted free agent Mark Stuart was a candidate to be traded, he was instead signed to a four-year, $10.5 million extension Wednesday.
Rookie Mark Scheifele is expected to miss at least a month after spraining his MCL versus New York.