It won’t be anywhere near a full house, but the Rangers certainly are looking forward to having fans at Madison Square Garden on Friday night when they play the Boston Bruins in the opener of a two-game weekend set against the East Division leaders.
It will be the first time the Rangers play in front of a live audience in nearly a year. "It’ll be exciting,’’ coach David Quinn said after practice Thursday. "Like I said last time we talked about this, it’s been strange, because we’ve actually been getting used to playing in front of nobody. So I don’t care if there’s 15 or 1,500 people in the building or 15,000. It’s gonna be nice to have people there cheering you on. And you know, our guys are excited about it.’’
The last time the Rangers played a game in front of fans was March 11 of last year, when they lost, 3-2, in overtime to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. Their last game at the Garden in front of fans was in a 6-4 loss to the Devils on March 7.
With Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Feb. 10 announcement that fans would be allowed to attend sporting events beginning this week, roughly 1,800 spectators are expected Friday, 10% of the building’s 18,006 capacity for hockey. The Knicks had 1,981 in attendance for Wednesday’s loss to Golden State.
Three of those in attendance Friday will be defenseman Adam Fox’s parents and his brother.
"Obviously, being from New York, it’s always special to play at the Garden with fans,’’ said Fox, who is from Jericho. "It’s definitely been a long time. We missed the fans at the Garden, so we’re definitely excited to have them there.’’
Fox said his family had to get tested in accordance with the protocols to attend the game.
"I know they’re definitely really excited to be there and watch the game live,’’ he said, "so it’ll definitely be fun.’’
Chytil returns to practice
Center Filip Chytil practiced with the team for the first time since he suffered what the Rangers described as an upper-body injury in a collision with Pittsburgh winger Evan Rodrigues on Jan. 24.
"It’s great to finally be around the guys and feel the puck,’’ Chytil said. "I can’t wait to be back.’’
Chytil, who was playing well when he got hurt (two goals, one assist in five games) told the media he had a hand injury. While he was out with that, he also spent time on the team’s COVID-19 list, though he is off it now.
"I’m happy that these two things were in the same time, because that wouldn’t be good if I would get back with the hand, and in another week, I would get COVID,’’ he said. "So I’m happy I can recover from both these things and be back now.’’
Although a return Friday seems unlikely, Quinn wouldn’t rule it out, calling Chytil "day-to-day.’’
"We have to see him, probably in practices, a little bit more,’’ Quinn said, "but we’ll see.’’
Georgiev tapped to start
Quinn said Alexandar Georgiev (2-2-2, .893 save percentage) will start in goal Friday. He made 29 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Bruins on Feb. 10.
Igor Shesterkin (4-6-1, .919 save percentage), who started seven of the last nine games, played in Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Flyers.