New York Rangers\' Marian Gaborik, right, of Slovakia. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
MONTREAL - New York Rangers star Marian Gaborik says his fight with Philadelphia Flyers enforcer Dan Carcillo happened spontaneously and he doesn't expect the two to drop the gloves when the teams meet again in March.
"It happened and it is what it is," Gaborik said Saturday as the Rangers prepared to face the Montreal Canadiens. "You get in a zone and get mad and things like that happen. I don't think I'm the only one.
"You get into situations sometimes when you don't realize it's a guy like that, or you're in a zone and that stuff happens. So I wasn't really thinking."
Debate has raged over whether the other Rangers on the ice at the time should have stepped in immediately when Gaborik squared off with Carcillo during a scrum in the Flyers 2-0 victory on Thursday night. Sean Avery took on Carcillo later in the game.
Coach John Tortorella, who said that there was "no honour" to Carcillo for fighting a skilled player, has reportedly told his players to step in any time an opponent wants to fight Gaborik, the team's scoring leader and offensive catalyst, even if it means taking extra penalties.
The incident has heated up the already intense rivalry between the Rangers and Flyers, who have three more meetings this season - on March 14 in New York and back-to-back games to end the regular season in April.
Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky said Carcillo shouldn't take any pride in fighting a goal-scorer.
"There are plenty of guys here ready to do that - he doesn't have to go after our best player," he said.
Gaborik, who came away from it without any injuries, called Carcillo "one of those guys that doesn't really care about the puck. He just runs around and that's what he does."
Actually, as of Saturday Carcillo had five goals and six assists and was plus-5 with 130 penalty minutes in 45 games this season, which are decent stats for a tough guy who averages 11:01 of ice time per game. In 2007-08, he had 13 goals and led the league with 324 penalty minutes for the Phoenix Coyotes, who traded him to the Flyers last March for Scottie Upshall and a 2011 second round draft pick.
The King City, Ont., native has expressed more surprise than contrition for taking on Gaborik.
"I'm still shocked it happened," Carcillo said this week. "But fights happen and just because he's their best player doesn't mean he can't fight."
Gaborik doesn't agree with that take.
"He can say whatever he wants," said Gaborik. "I don't think that's what should happen, but we're playing three more games (against Philadelphia) and I don't think he's going to do such a thing again because we're playing them again in our building and it's going to be physical."