Ladislav Smid of the Edmonton Oilers flies over Marian Gaborik...

Ladislav Smid of the Edmonton Oilers flies over Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers after he tripped Gaborik for a penalty during the second period of a hockey game at Madison Square Garden. (Nov. 14, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Marian Gaborik would love to play more. Who wouldn't?

But, of course, it's not up to him - unless he can play his way out of the minor funk that's enveloped the star Rangers winger for the bulk of the season.

"This year's team is a little different. We've got guys who have done some good things for us here,'' John Tortorella said. "I go into games wide open. The players make decisions for me, especially this year's team."

And with one goal in his last eight games heading into tonight's game against the Thrashers in Atlanta, Gaborik is not playing his way into being double-shifted, as he often was during last season's 42-goal output.

He's averaging 18:51 of ice time a game this season, but Gaborik has been right around 14:30 the last two games as his scoring slump has persisted. He has two hat tricks, against the Oilers and Islanders, and a four-goal game against the Leafs. In his other 39 games, he has only six goals.

Gaborik could make a big impact on the power play, which has slid to 24th in the league (15.4 percent). Tortorella had the Rangers doing an hour of power-play work Wednesday, then a half-hour of five-on-three work Thursday. Gaborik was involved in both, and Tortorella addressed him often during the drills.

"It starts with his legs. He's a freak as far as the way he can skate," Tortorella said. "If we can get him moving his legs, the rest will come. Sometimes, when a goal-scorer isn't scoring goals, he needs to stop thinking about scoring goals. Just do the work and the results will come."

The Rangers need results, starting Friday night. Their 0-4-1 slide has them peering over their shoulders at the Hurricanes, Thrashers and Sabres, who occupy slots eight through 10 in the East. Buffalo, which faced the Panthers Thursday night in Florida, has three games in hand on the Rangers.

"Special teams is huge this time of year. It's good we worked on it so much this week," Gaborik said. "We just need to start getting goals and points."

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