Chara will see a lot of Gaborik/By S. Bradley

When it comes to valuable players, few are more important to their club than New York Rangers forward Marian Gaborik.

The winger has truly been the straw that stirs the Blueshirts’ drink on offense since signing with them before last season, and that trend has continued this season. The Bruins, who learned how firsthand how dangerous Gaborik can be in one tight game last season, will try again to contain the Slovakian star starting at 7 p.m. tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Last November 1, Gaborik burned Tim Thomas and the Bruins for the lone goal of a 1-0 game. That’s a play and a contest Bruins head coach Claude Julien remembers well.

“I don’t know if they’re a totally different team [with and without Gaborik], but I do know when he gets a chance he’s pretty dynamic,” said Julien prior to his team leaving for the Big Apple. “He makes the best of his opportunities and that’s where, he’s one of those guys that you have to be aware when he’s on the ice. You may not see him do much, but the minute he gets the space and he gets the opportunity, he makes the best of it.

“He’s a real, sneaky, speedy goal-scorer, and the minute he has the puck on his stick … I remember last year, he had the puck on his stick in the slot for a fraction of a second and Wheels was right there, but he still got it off and scored the winner.”

Here’s a look back at that goal:

This season, Gaborik has missed 12 games due to injury but has still put up six points (3 goals) in six games. He has scored on a whopping 20 percent of his shots on net. The Rangers are 6-6-0 in games without Gaborik, but an impressive 4-1-1 when he skates for them.

Amazingly, that goal last November was Gaborik’s only one against the Bruins in 2009-10. He added just one assist in the four head-to-head games despite averaging four shots per match. For the season, he averaged 1.13 points per game, so the Bruins obviously held the key to containing one of the most lethal snipers around. That key just might stand 6-foot-9 and wear a captain’s ‘C’ on his sweater. Zdeno Chara was excellent against Gaborik last winter and he’s sure to see a whole lot more of Gaborik tonight. We’ll get to see which Slovak gets the upper hand in this Eastern Conference clash.