Marian Gaborik can’t return to LA Kings soon enough – Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES — Marian Gaborik wasn’t in the Kings’ lineup for their game Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets at Staples Center. He might not play Friday against the Arizona Coyotes or Saturday against the Ducks. It would appear to be only a matter of time before he rejoins their lineup, though.

Gaborik hasn’t played since undergoing left knee surgery in April.

The veteran right wing won’t play until he’s ready to play, Kings coach John Stevens said. When he does play, making his long-awaited and much-anticipated return to the lineup, the Kings expect him to be sound enough to stay on the ice. They don’t want him to suffer any setbacks.

There’s no sense in rushing him back.

In fact, as of Wednesday morning, Gaborik hadn’t been medically cleared to play.

“He’s been out a long time,” Stevens said. “He’s had lots of work. His conditioning is good. He’s gotten into some full-contact practices now. I think the approach with ‘Gabby’ now is if and when he’s ready to play, he plays, and we’ll evaluate each day.”

The Kings have no plans to sit Gaborik for certain games or for specific days of practice.

“He needs to focus on being an everyday player,” Stevens said.

The Kings could use Gaborik’s skills with the puck on his stick. He has scored 396 goals and 794 points in 989 career games in the NHL, with the Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild. He hasn’t played a full 82-game season since 2011-12 with the Rangers.

Gaborik had 10 goals and 21 points in 56 games last season.

The Kings, losers of five of six going into Wednesday, lack scoring depth without Gaborik and Jeff Carter, a veteran center who had team-leading totals of 32 goals and 66 points last season. Carter sat out his 16th consecutive game Wednesday because of a lower-body injury.

So, what’s next for Gaborik?

“We’re going to continue to integrate him in practice,” Stevens said. “He’s obviously made some good strides in terms of the fact that he’s fully integrated, full contact, and there’s no limitations in terms of what he can do. When they say he’s ready (to play), then he’ll be considered.”

Gaborik skated on a line with Jussi Jokinen and Jonny Brodzinski during Tuesday’s practice, a possible preview of things to come. He then joined Brodzinski and Nic Dowd for the first few rushes of Wednesday’s morning skate before Jokinen replaced him.

“When he’s healthy, I’m looking at him as an everyday…

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