All things considered, the Rangers didn't play that badly during Marian Gaborik's twelve-game absence from the lineup with a separated shoulder. They won half those contests, at times looking downright impressive (see games against Boston, Chicago, and New Jersey). In fact, over that stretch, they averaged slightly more goals a game than they did last year. Still, the Rangers won't go far relying on Brian Boyle (who's been great, but had never before scored more than four goals in a season) for offense. This team's success depends on a healthy Gaborik more than any other player, save perhaps for Henrik Lundqvist. And Gaborik will return tonight, at the Garden against Buffalo.
Gaborik's return, in theory, should help the Rangers beyond the obvious addition of a guy who scored 42 goals last season. The effective line of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Ryan Callahan will no longer need to serve as the team's No. 1 line, even if it will likely remain the deepest of the four offensive combinations. Perhaps more important, one can only hope that playing once again with Gaborik will have an effect on Alexander Frolov, who's been borderline invisible in the early going. The top line, i.e., the one with Gaborik, still won't have a No. 1 center, but the Rangers had at least hoped to count on scoring threats on both of the wings.
Gaborik said that tonight "feels like the start of the year" for him. It kind of does, doesn't it?