It was like trying to find someone who doesn't enjoy ice cream.
Rangers players loved their initial look at the first stage of the Garden transformation. The dark blue seats surrounding the ice, which Marty Biron said held up pretty well during practice. The locker room with a mini-version of the famous MSG ceiling; the expansive weight/workout room (the old MSG had three stationary bikes in an unused office), the enjoyment of coming home after essentially a month on the road.
Brad Richards said he felt a little like a rookie, and was anticipating the high energy level from the fans. Henrik Lundqvist, who will start in net, said it felt "different, but a good different." And coach John Tortorella liked the changes and the atmosphere, but aptly noted that "what makes a good building is winning."
Confirming what I wrote last night, Michael Sauer will be in the lineup against the Leafs, after missing five games with a right shoulder tear. Trainers gave him the green light for contact and he emerged unscathed by a bodycheck from Gaborik. "Gabby closed me out," said Sauer. "I'm glad he did. It felt fine afterward." Whether he partners with Del Zotto or McDonagh is unclear at the moment.
Appears that Ruslan Fedotenko will join Richards and Gaborik on the first line. Derek Stepan, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan were the second line at practice. Boyle-Prust-Wolski was the third, with Newbury-Anisimov-Christensen as the fourth. Mike Rupp (knee) rested, but I suspect he will play. Personally, I'd have Anisimov with Boyle and Prust on the flanks, and we might see that during the game. I don't think the coach has banished Artie; in fact, I believe he will see time on special teams.
Who's the seventh and spare D tomorrow? I'm guessing Jeff Woywitka, but dunno.
Hearing James Reimer will be in the net for the Leafs, who also skated at MSG.
I'm mostly into the best possible work scenarios and my initial review is positive. The main press box has been moved from directly above the Zamboni entrance to a higher locale in that same corner. Sight lines are good. Might be bigger adjustment for hoops, where writers were on the court. It's partially enclosed, with two long rows for writers instead of four shorter ones, adjustable chairs, several ways to connect with the internet, a group of small, rectangular HDTV monitors for replays, a bathroom and back counter area for coffee and water..
Escalators, an elevator and stairs are nearby, for access to the press area downstairs, which is roomy and has windows facing Eighth Avenue, and I walked down an internal staircase down to the post-game press conference room. The wireless worked very well, so far. I'm sure there will be tweaking when issues develop; Thursday night will be the trial run.