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NHL: Wild's stars get physical

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Brian Rolston knew Marian Gaborik came to play Tuesday night in Game 4 of the Minnesota Wild's first-round playoff series when midway through the first period, he watched Gaborik, Minnesota's most lethal scorer, surprise always-...

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Brian Rolston knew Marian Gaborik came to play Tuesday night in Game 4 of the Minnesota Wild's first-round playoff series when midway through the first period, he watched Gaborik, Minnesota's most lethal scorer, surprise always-nasty Anaheim Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger with a hard check in the corner.

"It makes a big difference when you see a guy like that, a skilled player, a star, hitting Pronger," Rolston said. "It tells everybody, 'He's doing it, I should be doing it, too.'"

Not surprisingly, Rolston and Pavol Demitra, two players who are not always physical on the forecheck, followed Gaborik's lead. They were engaged, initiating and accepting contact all night, and they eventually were put on the same line by coach Jacques Lemaire in the third period.

"It's funny," Gaborik said, laughing. "All the shuffling lines the last two years, it's the first time I've ever played with Roli (even-strengthed)."

In that third period, Demitra set up goals by Gaborik and Rolston in a 4-1 victory, and tonight the three are expected to at least start on the same line in Game 5 at Honda Center.

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"They won't play the whole game because I'm going to mix the lines up," Lemaire said. "Even though (Anaheim's coaches) were in the stands (Wednesday) taking all the lines, it won't be like that. They could have stayed home today."

Ducks checking forward Rob Niedermayer wasn't a bit surprised at the physical play Tuesday by the Wild's top-scoring forwards.

"They showed the desperation," Niedermayer said. "They were on the brink of elimination, and they came up with a big effort. Gaborik and Demitra got involved, and even Rolston. They were in on the forecheck hard. We need to play as desperate."

No slouches

Niedermayer said Gaborik and Demitra finish more checks than they're given credit for.

"They're strong guys," he said. "They'll battle. They'll get in the dirty areas. They don't back down."

Gaborik, who was called out Monday by general manager Doug Risebrough for not involving himself in other areas besides scoring, says he plans to finish checks again tonight.

"Everybody does different things at times, whether it's a blocked shot or a big hit or a big backcheck, and it shows the other guys that you appreciate other guys' jobs. In the playoffs, it lifts all the other guys. It's a boost."

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After three games of hard work paying no dividends, Rolston said Tuesday's victory and the fact that he, Gaborik, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mark Parrish all scored was significant - mentally.

"You put it on your shoulders to get the job done," Rolston said. "The first few games, I felt I was running into a brick wall for nothing. You're wondering, 'Am I ever going to get rewarded or are we ever going to get rewarded for our efforts?'

"It was nice to get goals and win, so you say, 'Listen, if I keep grinding it out and working hard, there's a light at the end of the tunnel.'"

Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf knows Anaheim better be leery of the Rolston-Demitra-Gaborik line, no matter how long it is together.

"We never expected to shut them out in our entire series," Getzlaf said. "They're skilled guys, and they're going to put the puck in the net. We just have to make sure they don't do it more times than we do (tonight)."

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