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Marian Gaborik(notes) returned to the New York Rangers lineup last Sunday, after an injury that earned him top-line right winger on the all-concussion team. He scored a power-play goal against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday, giving him 18 in 49 games after netting 42 in 76 games last season.

So yeah, he's a little off the pace.

Gaborik has "been far from a dominant player this season," as Andrew Gross put it. He's gone without a point in 23 games, and his 39 points on the season are buoyed by 13 of them being scored in three games.

Obviously, in an intense race for the final playoff seeds in the East, it should be Gaborik Time for the Rangers. But his ice time was under 15 minutes in their last two games, both Rangers losses.

Larry Brooks wrote a defense of Gaborik on Friday in the NY Post, saying that coach John Tortorella has tinkered too much with his game this season. From the Post, let Gabby be Gabby:

The coach has to be willing to give Gaborik not only the minutes he needs to thrive, but the support he needs to play his game, the one he played last year when he scored 42 goals, and not Brandon Prust's(notes) game or Brandon Dubinsky's(notes) game.

Wednesday morning, even in praising Gaborik's performance against the Flyers, Tortorella made a reference to "grinding." There were no such references last year when Gaborik finished fifth in the league in goal scoring.

We get it. Gaborik has the same responsibility to compete as every one of his teammates. But we can tell you that dynastic Islanders' coach Al Arbour never once called for Mike Bossy to be a grinder in the mold of teammates Clark Gillies, John Tonelli, Bob Nystrom and Duane Sutter. Are you kidding?

Blue Seat Blogs, meanwhile, thinks the issue, in the long run, is who's skating with Gabby:

Rarely are players afforded the chance to play through slumps in NY. Tortorella should look to find Gaborik running mates for the longer run (and thus move Prospal elsewhere). Regardless of his season to date Gaborik is the Rangers best player — build around him.

Especially since he's there through 2014. Not a bad idea, building a powerful top line around Gaborik. If only Dallas had a No. 1 center going to market this … hey, wait a second …

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