Gaborik looks to make an immediate impact when the Rangers face the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
The star right wing has missed 12 games with a separated shoulder, suffered Oct. 15 when Toronto’s Colby Armstrong(notes) slammed him into the boards during a 4-3 overtime loss. He finally feels healthy enough to return.
“I’m good to go,” Gaborik told the Rangers’ official website. “It’s feeling confident enough and comfortable enough to jump back into things, and after (Wednesday’s practice) I feel that way. It’s been awhile since I played and I am very anxious to get back in there.”
Gaborik led the Rangers (7-7-1) with 42 goals and 44 assists in 2009-10, when he played in all but six games. He has two assists in three games this season, including one in a season-opening 6-3 win at Buffalo (5-9-2).
Coach John Tortorella didn’t need much convincing to put Gaborik back on the ice.
“I’m not a big guy about he’s 100 percent or he’s 95 percent,” Tortorella said. “Can you play or not? And Gabi knows that, and he came to me after practice and said he’s ready to play. And I said ‘OK!’”
New York split the 12 contests without Gaborik, but is 2-5-1 at home. Another defeat would make this the Rangers’ worst start at MSG since dropping eight of their first 10 in 1976-77.
“It’s frustrating,” Tortorella said after the Rangers blew three leads and lost 5-3 to Washington at home Tuesday.
That defeat came two nights after a 2-0 loss to St. Louis - the Rangers’ first shutout loss of the season.
Brian Boyle(notes) was a bright spot Tuesday, scoring twice to increase his season total to a career-high seven goals. The rugged center totaled eight goals in 99 games over the previous two seasons with New York and Los Angeles.
Brandon Dubinsky(notes), the team leader with 10 goals, hasn’t scored in two games after netting five goals in the previous three. The forward scored twice against Buffalo last month, and has three goals and four assists in five meetings with the Sabres at MSG.
While the Rangers prepare to welcome Gaborik back, they’ll be without Michal Rozsival(notes) for at least a week. The club’s top scoring defenseman with eight points is reportedly nursing a nagging shoulder injury.
New York may be facing the Sabres at an opportune time, as Ryan Miller(notes) is expected to miss a sixth consecutive game with a knee injury. The goaltender has won his last three games at the Garden with a 1.32 goals-against average.
Even without the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Buffalo is looking to conclude a three-game road trip unbeaten. The Sabres won 5-4 in a shootout at New Jersey on Wednesday, and prevailed 3-2 at Toronto on Saturday, also in a tiebreaker.
Derek Roy(notes) leads the Sabres with eight goals and nine assists, including two of each over the last two games. The center has three goals and one assist in his last four meetings with the Rangers.