Wild: Gaborik looks ahead with confidence

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 4, 2007 - 4:41 PM

That word is confident, and it applies to the Wild’s most electrifying star’s goal-scoring, health and his team’s expectations.

CARLOS GONZALEZ ¥ cgonzalez@startribune.comApril 5, 2007 Ð Xcel Center Ð St. Paul, MN Ð NHL Ð Minnesota Wild vs. Edmonton Oilers Ð FOR FILE - Marian Gaborik, (10) during Thursday nightÕs game. Minnesota beat Edmonton by a final score of 3-0.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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With training camp less than two weeks away, Marian Gaborik is confident.

Just ask him.

During an interview with Gaborik last week, the Wild's chief game-breaker used the word confident or a semblance of the word, such as confidence, no less than a dozen times.

He's confident with the overhauled training program he engaged this offseason. He's confident his abdominal muscles are as strong as they've ever been. He's confident his groin problems are history. He's confident he'll be able to put in a full season and score 50 goals for the first time. And he's confident he can guide the Wild during a long playoff run.

All this talk about Gaborik's confidence has General Manager Doug Risebrough extremely confident.

When it comes to Gaborik avoiding his annual early-season groin injuries, Risebrough believes it has as much to do with Gaborik's mind as it does with his body.

"Obviously he's physically feeling better, but maybe more importantly, I know he's mentally feeling better," Risebrough said Sunday. "I went through this as a player myself. When you lose confidence in your body, it takes time to get it back.

"So here's a guy with a groin injury. He wants to push off, and he's not sure he can push off. That's a lack of confidence."

And since Gaborik's biggest asset is his speed, any lack of confidence in his legs can be debilitating.

But this summer, Gaborik significantly altered his training regimen. Between vacations to Mexico and Croatia, Gaborik worked mostly on strengthening his legs. He followed the program of Joe Horrigan, an L.A.-based soft tissue specialist whom Gaborik credits for getting him healthy during each of the past two seasons.

"I did a lot of speed work, a lot of running, a lot of working out and focusing on the lower body, doing core stuff and Olympic lifting," Gaborik said.

In July, Wild trainer Mike Vogt traveled to Slovakia, where he spent two weeks treating Gaborik with the same deep-tissue massage program Horrigan has recommended and Gaborik has found helpful in the past.

"I feel comfortable, you know?" Gaborik said. "I feel confident that I can ramp it up now to get conditioning on the ice. My goal first is to play the whole year, to be healthy. If I'm healthy, I am confident I can do a lot of good things for me and the team."

He's certainly proven in recent years that when healthy, he's as dominant as any player in the NHL. In the past two years, his .602 goals per game (68 goals in 113 games) was second best behind Ottawa's Dany Heatley (.610, 100 goals in 164 games).

In 2005-06, Gaborik missed 17 games because of two abdominal injuries but finished with 38 goals in 65 games, an 82-game pace of 48. Last season, he jumped out of the gate with seven points in his first six games before straining his groin at Anaheim.

He missed the next 34 games before scoring 26 goals and 50 points in his final 41 games, and 82-game pace of 52 goals and 100 points. The Wild was 19-2-2 when he scored and 33-9-6 when he played.

So, the key to the Wild's success is clearly having Gaborik stay healthy. The Wild, mostly silent this offseason by signing only center Eric Belanger and defenseman Sean Hill, certainly is banking on Gaborik not missing 30-plus games again.

"I know I learned a lot more last year," Gaborik said. "I have to stay on top of this, coming to the rink early and staying after so [Vogt] can loosen things up with the massages. I have to follow the strength program.

"If I do all this, I'm confident things will be good."

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