Gaborik searching for scoring touch

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

If he has to, Marian Gaborik probably will start squeezing his stick harder.

It's not the best thing for any player to do when he is slumping, but Gaborik of the Minnesota Wild is ready to try anything.

As the NHL's first month was highlighted by the exploits of freshmen such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, the emergence of Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Pascal Leclaire and the strong starts of veterans such as Henrik Zetterberg, Jarome Iginla and Mats Sundin, other big names were glad to kiss October goodbye.

Count Gaborik, the Dallas Stars' Mike Modano and Michael Ryder of the Montreal Canadiens among them.

Gaborik, coming off back-to-back seasons of at least 30 goals, has just two. Modano entered last night's game against the Phoenix Coyotes having spent time on the Stars' fourth line and Ryder was thought to be available in a trade.

"Setting up someone for a goal is fun, but scoring goals is what I like," said Gaborik, who has eight assists. "It's frustrating. Hopefully, I can be good again."

Those who have watched the Wild extensively this season say Gaborik, who has been bothered by a groin injury, has been out of sync since training camp.

Modano started last night a point behind Phil Housley as the top American-born scorer in NHL history. Considering Modano needed just six points to catch Housley at 1,232 when the season started, it's not hard to see why Modano was bitter.

"I'm glad it's over," Modano said of the opening month.

Ryder, who also is trying to hit 30 goals for the third consecutive season, is stuck at two. He is bound to be an unrestricted free agent next summer and the Habs are said to be willing to listen to offers.

STILL, IT'S NO UFC

The end of time will come before there is consensus on the issue of NHL fighting, and wouldn't you know it, fighting marginally is up in 2007-08.

There has been an average of 1.09 fights a game, compared to 0.87 at this time last year. With the instigator rule in full force, many fights appear to have roots in retaliation to a suspect hit, high-stick or slash.

"I think there is less of entertainment fighting," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I hate when two guys fight just because they happen to be the tough guys. If a star gets whacked, there's an immediate response now. It's back to policing the sport in the right way."

Said Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky: "Do you need an enforcer? Do you not need an enforcer? Is it part of the game anymore? I'm not sure where the enforcer is fitting in."

CROSS-CHECKS

Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff has been rotating the captaincy, but there is talk the rotation will stop when the 'C' gets to defenceman Brian Campbell ... Florida Panthers coach Jacques Martin had Joe Nieuwendyk address his team after 40 minutes of Wednesday's game against Carolina. The Panthers scored four goals in the third and won 4-2. Said defenceman Cory Murphy: "He knows what he is talking about. He wanted us to play as a team. When he comes into the room and has that message, it makes everyone think." ... The Tampa Bay Lightning, winners of 22 road games last year, is just 0-6 away from home and has not held a lead on the road.


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