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Gaborik mourns his friend Demitra

This recent undated photo shows Slovakian Pavol Demitra,

This recent undated photo shows Slovakian Pavol Demitra, a player on the Lokomotiv ice hockey team, who was killed in a plane crash on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011. Photo Credit: AP File

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Marian Gaborik didn't have to talk with reporters after an informal Rangers scrimmage Thursday. Who could have blamed him if he'd wanted some space?

After all, his former linemate and fellow Slovak, Pavol Demitra, died in Russia in Wednesday's plane crash with Kontinental Hockey League team Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. In May, another longtime Wild teammate of Gaborik's, Derek Boogaard, was found dead from a toxic mix of painkillers and alcohol.

But Gaborik, who can appear aloof to fans and media, admirably accepted questions amid the lingering shock.

"This summer has been crazy, first with Derek and guys who people knew around the league," Gaborik said, referring to the deaths of Rick Rypien and Wade Belak. "And this was 40 guys who lost their lives . . . It's hard to describe in words."

The plane crash occurred only days after Gaborik arrived in New York after training in Slovakia, where he plans to return to attend for services for Demitra.

"It was a big tragedy," Gaborik said. "He was one of my best friends. I can't believe it. I can't imagine how hard it is for his family. My condolences to them: his wife, kids, parents. It's just a shock. It's horrible."

Gaborik has been speaking with friends around the league to meet for the service when it is scheduled. In the meantime, he appreciates the kind words from those in the Rangers organization.

"Guys were very supportive, very classy,'' he said. "It's tough to lose hockey family members around the world.''

Last season, Gaborik's second on Broadway, was marred by injuries and a concussion. He missed 20 games, scoring only 22 goals and 48 points, compared with 42 goals and 86 points in 2009-10. Asked how he can quickly rebound mentally, Gaborik said: "You've got no choice. Life goes on. I don't really think, "What if?' It is what it is and you have to deal with it."

Make no mistake, the Rangers need a vintage Gaborik. He said he "feels great" physically and believes his new linemate, center Brad Richards, "was a great addition. He's one of the best playmakers in the league, so I believe it's going to work out for our team, for us, and we can bring it to another level.

"We re-signed some young guys, and adding an experienced guy like [Mike Rupp], I think we're a better team than last year."

New York Sports