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Gaborik an inspiration - for A-Rod

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - People have overcome problems worse than having gone four games without a goal, as top scorer Marian Gaborik has, or a whole week without a goal, as the Rangers' entire team has.

A year ago, Gaborik was recovering from hip surgery, and only two months after that, he was counseling a more famous patient on the same operation. They both wound up OK.

Last March, Gaborik gave a 15-minute, in-person pep talk to Alex Rodriguez, who wanted reassurance about having his torn labrum repaired. "I met him there, I talked to him in Vail and I haven't talked to him since," Gaborik said after practice Friday.

Gaborik was in Colorado, rehabbing from surgery by the same doctor, Marc Philippon, when he was sought out by the Yankees' third baseman.

Gaborik's first impression: "Nice guy. Huge, huge guy. He doesn't look like that on TV."

Rodriguez's impression: deep gratitude for the encouragement.

"It was the doctor who did everything," Gaborik said. "But I know that for myself, it was always good to hear from somebody who had it done and got through things. And [A-Rod] had a great year."

No one in the National Hockey League is having a season quite like Gaborik's. Entering Friday night, his 28 goals were tied for third. His percentage of his team's goals, 23.3, was first.

"Obviously, he's a huge part of our offense. We also need him playing on the other side of the puck, and I believe he will," said coach John Tortorella, who benched Gaborik Jan. 7 in Atlanta. "He understands the responsibilities and I believe he'll be there."

The downside is that when Gaborik doesn't score, no one on the Rangers does. They haven't had a goal since last Saturday afternoon in Boston, 144 minutes, 23 seconds ago. So they prepared for this Saturday night's game in St. Louis by working on fundamentals - shooting and driving the net.

"You have to be in front, try to look for those pucks and get an ugly one off the shin pads or whatever," Gaborik said. "We just can't come to the game and squeeze the sticks too hard."

He took special interest in and inspiration from the baseball postseason, knowing how hard Rodriguez had to work to get there.

"Oh, yeah, I was watching, definitely," Gaborik said. "He's a very exciting player to watch."

Notes & quotes: Rangers enforcer Donald Brashear, who had two uninspiring fights against the Senators Thursday, did not practice. "He's nicked," Tortorella said, adding he is not sure if Brashear will play in St. Louis . . . Christopher Higgins skated on the fourth line.

New York Sports