Rangers search for right combo for Gaborik

Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin of the Edmonton Oilers is

Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin of the Edmonton Oilers is faked out of position by Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers who scores on this breakaway during the second period of a hockey game at Madison Square Garden. (Nov. 14, 2010) (Credit: Getty Images)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Marian Gaborik achieved the bulk of his success last season through his own considerable talents, but he had help: Either Vinny Prospal and Erik Christensen, or both, were able to maximize Gaborik's play.

This season, Gaborik hasn't had that special running mate, and the search continued Tuesday. Gaborik skated with Derek Stepan and Ruslan Fedotenko in practice, just the latest combination John Tortorella has placed with Gaborik to try and jump-start his star.

Gaborik does have eight goals in 16 games, but six of them have come in two games against two of the worst teams in the league, the Oilers and Islanders. Gaborik had a hat trick in his first game with Christensen and Sean Avery; in their third, the trio was on for the Senators' winning goal with 2:24 left Sunday.

"It's about trying to find consistency," Tortorella said after a physical, hourlong practice in advance of Thursday's visit to Ottawa. "That line simply wasn't consistent, it had one good game and really struggled and obviously hurt us in the Ottawa game. We've got to find someone and we will. Some of the onus goes on Gabby . . . It's about him helping the other players. He's that good. So it's a little bit of a two-way street there."

Gaborik said he'd certainly like to find the chemistry with someone on the current roster that he had with Prospal seemingly from the start of last season; Prospal was the Rangers' second-leading scorer with 58 points last season.

"He knew me, I knew him; we were just on the same wavelength," Gaborik said. "It just clicked, and nothing's clicked so far. It would be nice [to find someone], but I'm used to the lines changing by now. We just have to make it work no matter who's there."

Stepan has been there before with Gaborik this season; Fedotenko has been a solid fit with Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle, but Tortorella knows he needs his hottest offensive players working with Gaborik.

The other solution is to find someone outside the organization. Stars center Brad Richards is a favorite of Tortorella's and a free agent at the end of the season. But the Rangers don't have the salary-cap space or the inclination to trade assets for a rental just yet.

"I like Feds with Prust and Boyle, but I'm basically robbing Peter to pay Paul here," Tortorella said. "You talk about trading deadline, free agency, you're never locked in [to finding someone there] . . . This is our team and we've got to be more balanced."

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