Gaborik seems closer to return

Rangers winger Marian Gaborik celebrates a goal against

Rangers winger Marian Gaborik celebrates a goal against the Islanders. (Mar. 24, 2010) (Credit: AP )

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - In what appears to be a significant step toward his return, Rangers No. 1 right wing Marian Gaborik, who suffered a concussion on a check from Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik on Feb. 13, practiced with the team Wednesday without immediate recurrence of symptoms.

Gaborik, who played two games after the incident before being shut down when he had difficulty concentrating after the first period of the Feb. 20 game against Philadelphia, won't play Thursday against the Minnesota Wild, coach John Tortorella said.

With the Rangers holding onto seventh place by a point and facing another three-games-in-four-days stretch, Tortorella made no prediction on when Gaborik would play.

"I want to try to get him in as quick as we can without putting him in harm's way and have him ready to play," he said.

Doctors cleared Gaborik for practice after he did not experience headaches or pressure or blurry vision for a day, and he said he "felt pretty good" in the locker room afterward. On Friday, he had no symptoms after skating alone, but some arose later. "We'll see how it's going to respond," Gaborik said.

"For a few seconds after [Orpik's hit], I didn't really know what was going on," he said. "I got a headache and didn't feel right after the game. I never had that . . . I thought it would go away."

Two other injured Rangers, Marc Staal (knee) and Ruslan Fedotenko (shoulder), will be game-time decisions Thursday, Tortorella said.

Staal twisted his knee on Feb. 22 against Carolina and has missed three games. The All-Star defenseman left practice on Monday when his knee "felt more loose as it went on" and was sore, Staal said after completing practice.

"I want to get back in there and help," he said, "but I want to make sure it's good to go. I'm hopeful."

Fedotenko, who separated his left shoulder on Jan. 19 and reinjured it on a hit from Washington's John Erskine on Feb. 25, skated on a line with Kris Newbury and Brian Boyle. "I'll go day by day," he said. "I felt decent enough, so we'll see how it feels tomorrow."

Notes & quotes: Henrik Lundqvist will start against the Wild . . . Backup G Chad Johnson admitted to having a "hot and cold" year in the AHL before arriving to replace Martin Biron (broken collarbone), but said he was more familiar with the NHL, having played in five games with a 1-2-1 record as a rookie last season . . . Brandon Prust, whose injured hand and thumb have limited his effectiveness, had the day off.

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