Marian Gaborik sprinted out to a fast start last season. He scored two goals in his first two games as a Ranger, and four in his first four games en route to a 42-goal campaign.
Through two games this season, the Rangers leading scorer in 2009-10 has two assists and was turned away on a penalty shot by Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro on Monday.
Too early to panic? Absolutely.
But coach John Tortorella soon may be forced to tinker with the top line he chose out of the gate: Gaborik, ex-King Alexander Frolov and Erik Christensen. Frolov, signed to a $3-million contract during the summer, also has two assists and no goals. Christensen, who was claimed off waivers last December and signed a two-year contract this summer, is day to day with a right leg injury that left him unable to play for all but 36 seconds of the third period in Uniondale.
During training camp, Tortorella tried rookie Derek Stepan between the two veterans and wanted to experiment with Vinny Prospal, who clicked with Gaborik early last season. But Prospal’s ailing knee has sidelined him since late September and he’s been off the ice since Sept. 24.
Christensen, who scored in Buffalo, may be able to dress for Friday’s home opener against the Maple Leafs, but if he can’t go, these appear to be the options.
Stepan, who scored a record-tying three goals in his first NHL game against the Sabres, could be re-inserted between Gaborik and Frolov; Artem Anisimov, who has a very strong camp and is 1-2-3 on the No. 3 line with Ruslan Fedotenko and Sean Avery; or captain Chris Drury, who could return to the lineup after breaking his left index finger while blocking a shot in a scrimmage Sept. 20.
Drury’s return from injured reserve would require a roster move and Tortorella gave no clue about who that might be. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.
Some other comparisons to last season: Henrik Lundqvist played the first four games, Steve Valiquette played the fifth, and the Rangers won seven straight after losing the opener to the Penguins. Two of those wins were against Toronto… Prospal scored the first goal at the Garden…The top six defensemen were 3-5-8 in the first three games last season; the top 4 are 2-6-8 in first two games this year…Brandon Dubinsky, who is 3-1-4 in two games, was 2-2-4 in the first two games of 2009-10.