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Marian Gaborik could miss eight weeks after World Cup injury, Kings GM says

Team Europe's Marian Gaborik, left, shields the puck from a falling David Pastrnak of Team Czech Republic on Sept. 19.
Team Europe’s Marian Gaborik, left, shields the puck from a falling David Pastrnak of Team Czech Republic on Sept. 19.
(Nathan Denette / Canadian Press)

The hopes of two hockey teams took serious hits Monday with the news that Kings and Team Europe right wing Marian Gaborik suffered an injury to his right foot and is expected to be sidelined for eight weeks.

The immediate impact is that the Slovakian forward will miss the best-of-three World Cup of Hockey final, which will match Europe against favorite Team Canada starting Tuesday in Toronto. Team Europe, which deployed Gaborik on its second line with Frans Nielsen and Mats Zuccarello, faced a huge disadvantage because of Canada’s formidable depth and now must slay hockey’s Goliath without Gaborik, who shared the team goalscoring lead with two.

The long-term impact is that the Kings, who were counting on Gaborik to rebound from a 12-goal performance in 54 games last season, will have to find other ways to boost their offense when the NHL season begins on Oct. 12.

Team Europe General Manager Miroslav Satan said Gaborik “took the puck to his foot” Sunday during the team’s 3-2 overtime semifinal victory over Sweden but continued to play. Gaborik underwent tests on Monday in Toronto, and Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said an injury was found. “Bad — eight weeks,” Lombardi said via email.

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Several players have been injured during the tournament. Notably, Pittsburgh Penguins and Team North America goaltender Matt Murray broke his hand and Dallas/Canada forward Tyler Seguin incurred a hairline fracture in his heel in an exhibition game.

Team Europe, full of players whose homelands can’t stock competitive, elite-level national teams, has already faced considerable adversity. Two ugly exhibition losses triggered a transformation of its style to a patient, two-way game that contributed to upsets of Team USA and the Czech Republic. But Europe also lost to Canada, 4-1, in round-robin play.

“We came in and we tried to play European kind of hockey, big-ice hockey, on the smaller rink. We were turning the puck over,” said Denmark-born Nielsen, who will play for the Detroit Red Wings this season. “We didn’t realize the pace is faster. With the veteran team we have, everyone saw this right away and agreed we can’t play like this.”

The excellence of Jaroslav Halak (1.96 goals-against average, .947 save percentage) and leadership of Kings captain Anze Kopitar (three assists in four games) accelerated the bonding of a team that speaks English as its common language.

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“Guys in the dressing room didn’t believe what was written before the tournament, and they saw each other as great players and they could combine into a great team, and so far they’ve proved everybody wrong,” said Satan, a former NHL forward.

Canada has had a relatively easy time and has outscored its opponents, 19-6, including a 5-3 semifinal victory over Russia. But players said they’re focused on meeting their own standards.

“We’ve been dealing with that since this tournament started, with the expectation that we’re supposed to win and the pressure of playing in front of our fans,” forward Steven Stamkos said.

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“We have a willingness to buy in and play the right way to win,” he said.

Coach Mike Babcock, who guided Canada to Olympic gold in 2010 and 2014, said Team Europe is too talented for Canada to assume that its international success is a sure thing. “The team we’re playing against will be ultra-prepared and ultra-competitive and they want to be champion,” he said. “But so do we.”

helene.elliott@latimes.com

Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen

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UPDATES:

12:05 a.m.: This article has been updated with a comment from Dean Lombardi.

This article was originally published at 10:55 a.m.

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