The sweat had soaked through Marian Gaborik's gray t-shirt, which was no surprise; he had been furiously pedaling the stationary bike while his teammates practiced in the rink down the corridor at the MSG Training Center.
The surprise was that the right wing, sidelined since Oct. 15 when a check by the Leafs' Colby Armstrong---which drew a boarding penalty and separated his left shoulder---wasn't wearing a sling and said he hoped to try skating early next week.
"We'll see how it's going to be when I get on the ice," said Gaborik, the team's leading scorer last season with 86 points. "We still have to work on movement and range. It's not all the way, but it's getting there. I started with a little bit of weight, I'm happy with the progress. I don't have a timetable, but I think it's moving in the right direction. The doctor and trainers say that it’s progressing good."
Without Gaborik, as well as Vinny Prospal (knee surgery) and Chris Drury (broken index finger), the Rangers (4-2-1) have banded together and hope to extend a three-game winning streak tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers at Madison Square Garden.
"They're playing great," said Gaborik, who likely won't return until mid-November, four weeks after he left the ice wincing with pain. "It's fun to watch, they're really putting out a team effort."
Rangers coach John Tortorella stopped short of naming Henrik Lundqvist as tonight’s starter but acknowledged that his No. 1 goaltender has found a rhythm and that his two best games were the weekend wins over Boston and New Jersey. Lundqvist allowed just three goals on 65 shots.
Chris Mason, who has started every game for the (3-4-1) Thrashers, who are winless in their last three games, will be in the net for Atlanta. The Thrashers, who won each of their two games at MSG last season, have allowed 29 goals, and rank among the bottom four teams in the NHL in that category. Jim Slater, Zach Bogosian and Freddy Meyer are likely scratches. Peter Mannino is the backup G.
The Rangers top lines will remain the same, but veteran Todd White, a former Thrasher who has been a healthy scratch in four of the first seven games, will return on the fourth line with Brian Boyle and Derek Boogaard. “I’m happy with the three lines and trying to find some ice time for the fourth along the way,” said Tortorella.
Brandon Prust, his right eye still swollen and blackened from Gregory Campbell’s high stick in Boston, will play and again wear a visor.