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Continued: Wild's pair of aces: Demitra and Gaborik

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 11, 2007 - 7:34 AM

Gaborik often goes to Demitra's home to play with his son, Lucas.

"I don't want to see his ugly face every day," Demitra said. "We see each other enough at the rink, but my boy loves him. He likes when Gabby brings him presents. The first gift Gabby got him was a [Wild] Zamboni. Every time I ask him who gave it to him, he goes, 'Gabby.' "That kid's always running around," Gaborik said. "He's really, really got a lot of energy, boy. Looks like his father."I hope not," Demitra said. "I hope he looks like my wife [Maria]."

A positive influence

It's easy to see what Demitra and Gaborik mean to each other on the ice. They combined for 40 goals and 87 points since Jan. 11, and teammates joke how their statistics would be gaudier if they all wore No. 10.

But General Manager Doug Risebrough has noticed a significant difference in Gaborik's maturity since he traded for Demitra last summer.

"Demitra's kind of got that laid-back, analyze-everything demeanor," Risebrough said. "There's a real high respect factor there with Marian to Pavol. I'm sure it has a lot do with the younger-to-older thing, but Pavol influences Marian in a lot of positive ways, whether it's calming him down, whether it's jacking him up.

"If you think about it, Gabby's never had somebody in the room willing to keep him honest."

Gaborik agrees, saying, "I've learned a lot this year. To be around one of my best friends, a guy who's been around and has a lot of experience and has played so good in the NHL, it's been a good thing."

'One plus one equals three'

Even though Gaborik and Demitra dominated at the 2006 Olympics and for the elite Slovakian team Trencin during the NHL's lockout of 2004-05, some skeptics wondered how successful they'd be in the NHL. Often, linemates can be like oil and water even when they have complementary parts.

"Pavol Demitra's a good player, but if you want him to be a solo player, he's not going to be," said Craig Button, a Toronto Maple Leafs. "You have to get him the right linemate. And we've seen now, you put him with a guy like Marian, Pavol doesn't just jump from here to here. It's exponential.

"They're both smart players, both really good with the puck, both really good skaters, where Pavol maneuvers and Marian can really take off. And the way Pavol holds the puck and Marian gets open for him, that's how one plus one equals three."

As good as Demitra and Gaborik have been, Demitra says the two still are waiting for that one breakout game. He's hoping that'll come in the playoffs, although that's an awfully tall task against the hard-hitting Ducks.

"I feel we can still play better," said Demitra, who has scored 20 goals in nine consecutive seasons. "We're still looking for that one huge game where we can dominate and score four or five goals. Some games, we get 10 chances and score only one or two goals. But I know we can explode.

"There are a lot of expectations on us in the playoffs. Everybody wants to see if we can play good."

Retired NHL veteran Ray Ferraro, a teammate of Demitra's in St. Louis, thinks it will happen.

"I don't think the intensity of the playoffs will bother them," Ferraro said. "They've given the Wild a dimension they haven't had in the past, and that's the ability to score off the rush. Demitra's a very good passer with a terrific shot and Gaborik's a legit gamebreaker, and the defense has to respect that.

"These guys clearly love playing with each other. As soon as one guy gets the puck, you know he's looking for the other guy. And it's pretty easy to have a feel where Gaborik is. Look straight ahead. I think they'll be dangerous for Anaheim."

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