The no tion floating around that Chris Drury bailed out on the Rangers by claiming to have a sore left knee in order to potentially avoid the specter of becoming a healthy scratch is about as absurd as it gets. It's as insulting as possible regarding an athlete whose character and will to win has never been questioned by a single individual within the industry.

Rather, the likelihood is that the captain hung in and battled for weeks through pain that compromised his game until his team became healthy enough with the return of Vinny Prospal on Thursday and Erik Christensen here yesterday to step out and take some time to try and repair the knee so that he can contribute more than spare change on the penalty kill and at the defensive zone dots.

Absent from the lineup for the 32nd time this year because of injury, Drury was not an issue in the 2-0 empty-net abetted defeat to the Canadiens that will send the Blueshirts into Detroit tomorrow night with their first four-game losing streak (0-3-1) of the season.

But absent from the goal-scoring column also for the 32nd time this year in the 41 games he has played, Marian Gaborik most certainly was an issue.

Drury was absent because of injury. Gaborik was AWOL.

Gaborik managed two shots in 14:27 of ice, a relatively paltry amount of time given his presumed stature and the eight minutes of power play time the Rangers burned both overall and through a second-period span of 16:25 during which they generated one shot -- count it -- while yielding three.

But Gaborik, who simply isn't getting the puck in open ice where he can use his legs and his shots to any purpose, and who doesn't appear to be anywhere near as involved as he should be, earned his seat on the bench when he otherwise would have been piling up minutes

If the ice time isn't a reflection of Gaborik's ongoing and utterly mysterious ineffectiveness, then John Tortorella's decision to send out Ryan Callahan rather than No. 10 when the coach called Martin Biron to the bench for the extra attacker with 1:24 to go most certainly is.