EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — It was barely two years ago that the Rangers dealt a maligned sniper to Columbus. Liked in the locker room but reviled by coaches and at times the front office and fans, Marian Gaborik was hoping for a fresh start.
He would have to wait nearly another year for a true new beginning.
Now, facing his former team, Gaborik looks more like the perennial 40-goal scorer he once was in New York. He no longer faces questions of his work ethic or whether or not he truly wants to be in the dressing room with his team. He’s scored more goals than anyone else in the playoffs and his teammates have had nothing but glowing reviews for the right winger.
"When I got traded, I wanted to fit in in terms of on the ice and off the ice," Gaborik said. "This team has been together for couple years here, 90 percent of those guys won Cup two years ago. When you’re coming to a team that has won and been contender past few years, you want to make sure you fit in, buy into the system, try and contribute.
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"That was my focus."
His desire to fit in off the ice might show a level of sensitivity that he hasn’t always revealed.
On the ice, he’s the perfect complement to center Anze Kopitar. The hard left shot and the speed has made him a favorite target for the playmaking centerman.
"He’s there for us every time," Kopitar said. "It seems like every time we need him to, he comes up with a huge goal."
Wanting to go somewhere to contribute is one thing, but wanting to go somewhere that you know you will have a lifestyle that you will enjoy and a locker room that supports you is another.
"You could tell that this team has a great locker room," Gaborik said. "Without that I don’t think they would be able to be a winning team."
The trade was met with mixed reviews. Head coach Darryl Sutter rarely expresses any emotion — good, bad or otherwise — but his post-practice press conference following the trade showed almost less than nothing. No assessment of skill was needed, Gaborik proved his worth immediately with four points in his first six games and the Kings suddenly went on a tear.
It was finally the fit he was looking for in all facets.
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"Off the ice it’s important to be part of the team, to have the team take you in, to feel a part of it," Gaborik said. "I think we have four centers that maybe on the other team would be top two centers. We roll four lines, we have great depth with great goaltending."
He knew the possibility of facing either Columbus or New York, but now that it’s the reality, he’s at peace with it and the Rangers are as well.
"It was a little weird to start out with," he said. "But as soon as the puck dropped, it was playing like any other team."
"It was like every trade: It’s complicated and difficult," said Rangers general manager Glen Sather. "I like Marian a lot, I think he’s a great guy and a great player. To get the kind of quality players that we were able to get, we needed depth on our team, and it certainly did it for us.