Zuccarello ready for fans’ reception ahead of MSG return

Mats Zuccarello wasn’t surprised that his nearly decade-long relationship with the Rangers ended at last season’s trade deadline, he just wishes the lines of communication between his camp and the team were a little better.

“It was tough to accept because you were passionate about your team and and you felt like you gave everything,” Zuccarello said via the Pioneer Press. “Then suddenly they don’t want you anymore or whatever. They go in a different direction.”

The 32-year-old Norwegian spent nine seasons with the Rangers and quickly became a fan favorite for his work ethic. It was clear how much he meant to the organization just by hearing how emotional Henrik Lundqvist was following the trade.

As the franchise decided to move toward a younger look, Zuccarello’s pending free agency made it clear he would be moving on from Broadway at some point. Then came last February when he was dealt to the Stars for their playoff push. When free agency opened on July 1, he signed a five-year, $30 million deal to join the Wild, a contract that was never going to come from the Rangers.

After a slow start in Minnesota where he was critical of himself, Zuccarello’s offense has picked up. He enters Monday’s game with a three-game point streak and four goals and 11 points in 19 games this season.

Hard feelings are in the past now, but Zuccarello isn’t sure just how emotional his return will be when he steps on to Madison Square Garden ice for the first time as a visitor.

Editor’s note: Need tickets to see his MSG return? Click here

“I came there young and kind of grew up there,” he said. “That’s where I’m living almost my whole 20s. Obviously it’s a big part of me. So yeah, I don’t know if it’s going to be emotional.”

While he may not think it’s going to be emotional, it will be for the fans inside MSG, who will give him an extended, roaring ovation when the time comes. It will be a thank you for his years of service to the franchise, which were appreciated by the franchise.

“The fans, they did so much for me and helped me and supported me all those years,” he said. “So that’s going to be special, for sure.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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