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Gaborik, 19, runs Wild on league

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 6, 2002

Marian Gaborik is the real deal. The Wild left wing is just 19 but already has the look of a potential superstar.

"He's such a young talent, he's pretty scary," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "He has a nose for the net, quickness and speed."

Gaborik's goal Monday against Tampa Bay gave him 16 and 37 points. That's a point better than last season when he was considered the Wild's future. Now he is considered its franchise player.

The soft-spoken Gaborik, on track for 35 goals and 80 points despite missing training camp because of a hernia, takes it all in stride.

"I just go out there and try to do my best," he said. "I know a little bit more now, so my thing is to try to improve and get better and better and just keep going."

In his native Slovakia, Gaborik idolized players such as Peter Bondra and Pavel Bure. But he also spent time creating art -- oil paintings, sculptures, drawings -- on display in his parents' home. He also helped the family's furnituremaking business.

His maturity is evident in how he approaches the game. Gaborik is almost always the last one on the ice after practice and he plays to his 6-foot-1, 200-pound size. Wild coach Jacques Lemaire, wanting to keep Gaborik hungry, is hesitant to gush.

"To me he is just a good player who is getting better," Lemaire said. "Now he is either going to get better or this is as good as he gets. Or maybe he gets worse. I just want him to keep working to improve."

His best attributes, according to Lemaire: skating, the ability to see the ice, toughness and the ability to make plays.

"It's going to take a long time for me to get the respect around the league," Gaborik said. "There are lots of games, lots of months and lots of years until I get to that point."

LEMAIRE SPEAKS: Lemaire said he sees similarities between Gaborik and Lightning center Vinny Lecavalier.

"I think he is still going in the right direction," Lemaire said of the 21-year-old. "I saw him his first year and felt he could be one of the top players in the league. He has all the skills and he's big."

As for developing talents such as Gaborik and Lecavalier, he said, "All you can ask of these kids is to work hard. They have the talent."

OUT OF POSITION: In an attempt to get Sergei Fedorov out of an 11-game goal-scoring slump, Detroit coach Scotty Bowman moved the superstar to defense and paired him with Chris Chelios.

Fedorov got the news hours before Monday's game against the Wild. He had not played the blue line for six years -- Bowman once thought about giving Fedorov a regular turn on the back line -- and seemed peeved.

"I don't think about whether I like it or don't like it," he said. "I try to get on with it and do my best."

Fedorov did well, playing 22:50 on 27 shifts and getting two hits. He played 20 minutes Wednesday against the Mighty Ducks in what by then was being described as Bowman's experiment to get some offense from his back line.

Fedorov provided it with a goal off a play from the blue line.

"The goal was because he jumped in and kept the puck in," Bowman said. "You need that kind of play the way the game is being played now."

ODDS AND ENDS: Eric Lindros did not suffer his seventh concussion in 46 months by getting whacked with a stick as first thought. Videotape shows his thumb slammed into his head above his right eye when he collided with San Jose's Mark Smith. ... Penguins defenseman and potential unrestricted free agent Darius Kasparaitis keeps talking about how he "would be happy" to return to the Islanders. ... The Hurricanes had their best December: 8-2-1-3, 20 points. ... Goaltender Marty Turco is pushing Canadian Olympian Ed Belfour for the Stars' starting job. Turco is 6-0-0 with a 1.59 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in his past eight. ... Panthers center Olli Jokinen sheared off his front teeth, broke and slanted a bone on one side of his face and needed 40 stitches after running into Florida assistant coach George Kingston at a morning skate and taking the knob of Kingston's stick in the mouth. ... The Predators are 8-1-4 in their past 13 home games and 2-10-1 in their past 13 on the road.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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