NHL on NBCSN: Road-weary Rangers host Habs in renovated MSG

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the New York Rangers host the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Rangers are 3-6-0, they’ve been blown out of games, and Brad Richards is their only healthy player with more than a single goal. Healthy is an important distinction to make because on top of everything else, some of their top players are or have been sidelined already.

Still, it’s worth taking their shortcomings with a grain of salt because they’ve arguably had the toughest schedule in the NHL so far. We’re almost into November and the Rangers are only now finally able to play in front of their fans. Every other team has already played in at least three home games this season.

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“I think everybody is very very very happy to be home,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told the Bergen Record now that the Madison Square Garden’s renovations are done.

“I was on a stretch in 2010 because the Olympics were in Vancouver we were gone from our home for a little more than six weeks if you count the two weeks for the Olympics. This was longer than that. If you count the exhibition games we played, this was longer than that.”

Vigneault didn’t want to use the length of their road trip as an excuse for the Rangers rough start, but he acknowledged the fact that it was a trying time. Fortunately for them, it’s in the past now. Tonight’s match doesn’t represent a fresh start for the Rangers — top forward Rick Nash along with captain Ryan Callahan are still hurt and going home doesn’t wipe the team’s record — but it provides them with a platform to stage their comeback.

Well, the venue is right at least, but on the other hand the Montreal Canadiens aren’t exactly the ideal team for the Rangers to face right now.

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has been superb this season and will be a particular challenge for a largely snakebitten Rangers squad. Montreal has also been one of the best teams with the man advantage while the Rangers are the second least disciplined club in the league when it comes to penalty minutes per game.

New York will have netminder Henrik Lundqvist back after he missed two games with an undisclosed injury, but he’ll have his hands full against a Canadiens team that’s been firing on all cylinders so far.

So the Rangers won’t have an easy time tonight, but at least now they have an opportunity to defend the Garden.