Rangers finally return home to host Leafs

The Rangers survived their longest road trip to begin a - an epic journey that began in Sweden and ended in Western Canada -- with a record above .500 and the reward may be the best part yet: A renovated Madison Square Garden.

New York settles in to its new-look home for the first time this season tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will have Tim Connolly in the lineup for the first time this season.

It was quite a journey for the Rangers, who kicked off the campaign with a pair of post-regulation losses to the Kings and Ducks in Europe before making a stop in Long Island on Oct. 15. The Blueshirts finally got their first victory of the season three days later in Vancouver, winning three times in four games out west to return to New York for a six-game homestand with a 3-2-2 mark.

Now its back to "The World's Most Famous Arena" for a rendezvous with the home fans, who like the Rangers will enjoy a spruced up arena. For the players, the overhaul included a state-of-the-art weight room, new locker room and spacious trainer's room.

"Everything's so different. It's a brand-new building," said center Brian Boyle. "It's pretty neat. We get taken care of pretty good and the fans I'm sure will love it as well."

The crowd will also get its first regular-season look at Brad Richards, who signed a nine-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers this offseason and logged a goal and four assists over the road trip.

Richards said the club is ready to put its lengthy trek behind them, but acknowledged the success of the swing.

"We got through it above .500, which a lot of us probably would have taken before the two weeks started in Europe and with the teams we had to play out west, some good teams playing well, in their own building," said Richards. "It's kind of in the past. We're looking forward to a lot of new energy with out home crowd and get our games where we want it.

"But you can never disappoint eight points out of 14 on a road trip like that."

New York closed out the swing with a 2-1 victory in Winnipeg on Monday. Ruslan Fedotenko and Ryan Callahan scored power-play goals, with Dan Girardi assisting on both tallies.

Martin Biron, making his first start of the season, stopped 27 shots for the win.

Tonight could also mark the return of defenseman Michael Sauer to the lineup. He has missed the last five games with a shoulder injury.

New York is riding a club record-tying seven-game point streak in home openers, going 4-0-2 with a tie in that span.

Toronto will also have some fresh bodies tonight in Connolly and fellow center Tyler Bozak. Connolly, who signed a two-year contract this offseason, suffered an upper-body injury during training camp, while Bozak has sat out the last two games with a foot ailment.

Connolly spent his previous eight seasons with the Sabres and logged 13 goals and 42 points in 68 games last year. He is likely to center a line with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.

The Maple Leafs will be looking to salvage the finale of their own road trip, a four-game jaunt that has produced a 1-2 mark so far. Toronto dropped a 4-2 decision in its most recent trip to the ice on Monday in Philadelphia.

Kessel scored his NHL-leading ninth goal of the season and 15th point, and David Steckel added a goal for the Maple Leafs, who are 2-2-1 since opening the season with three victories in a row.

With James Reimer battling a head and neck injury, Jonas Gustavsson made 26 saves in the loss, with Ben Scrivens being recalled on an emergency basis to serve as the backup.

"I was actually pleased with our efforts. I thought we had some real quality scoring chances but I am disappointed that we did not shoot the puck more when we had opportunities," said Toronto head coach Ron Wilson. "We hit a lot of sticks and the Flyers are really good in their zone with sticks, but we got some pucks to the net, but we didn't do it as well tonight."

Reimer is expected to return to action tonight.

The Rangers have won three in a row and six of their last eight over the Maple Leafs, including four of the past six at MSG.