He scored twice, including the game-winner at 5:28 of the third
period, to lead the Minnesota Wild past the Detroit Red Wings 3-2
Tuesday in the preseason opener for both teams.
"Hopefully it can stay like this and I can be healthy all
year," said Gaborik, who missed 11 games last year with a strained
hip flexor and three games with a groin injury, but still scored 38
Energized in the offseason with the signing of a three-year, $19
million contract and by the acquisition of fellow Slovak, and good
friend, Pavol Demitra, Gaborik scored just 32 seconds into the game
when his slap shot from atop the left circle went between the pads
of Joey MacDonald.
Since being drafted third overall in 2000, Gaborik has 134 goals
in 360 games.
In training camp less than a week, coach Jacques Lemaire has
noticed a more mature Gaborik on the ice, on the bench and in the
locker room. "He was very serious the last few years and this year
it seems like he's got a nice smile, which I like, and he's showing
that he wants to play and wants to succeed," Lemaire said.
Demitra scored at 1:35 on the power play, tucking home a rebound
of Kurtis Foster's shot to give the Wild a 2-0 lead. Brian Rolston
also had an assist on the play.
"This is one of the best power plays I've ever played on. For
the first game we moved the puck very well and got a lot of
chances. If we got lucky, we could have scored three, four goals
tonight," said Demitra, acquired from Los Angeles in the
Johan Franzen scored late in the first period for Detroit, and
Boyd Devereaux added a goal on a rebound during a two-man advantage
midway through the second period to tie it 2-2.
Detroit finished 1-for-9 on the power play; Minnesota 2-for-11.
With a two-man advantage in the third period, Gaborik tried to
center the puck from the bottom of the right circle, but the puck
deflected off a defender's skate past goaltender Stefan Liv for the
Gaborik, who had a team-high seven shots on goal, also saw
considerable time on the penalty kill.
"I was playing there at the end of the season, and it feels
much better when you're on the ice more often and also trying to
get better defensively, and also maybe, when there is a chance, get
something going," he said.