It’s been 326 days since the Rangers last heard the vivacious cheers from their fans at the Garden, but that silent streak will end Friday night.
There will be roughly 2,000 fans allowed inside for the first of three games with tickets available to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic, with priority going to season-ticket holders. Those attending will have to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the game and will be seated in socially distanced “pods.”
“It’ll be exciting,” coach David Quinn said after practice Thursday. “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, it’s going to be nice to have people there cheering you on. I know our guys are excited about it.
“As excited as these people are to get in the building, we’re more excited to have them in the building. It’s such a historic venue, but when you put people in it, it just makes it that much more enjoyable.”
Defenseman Adam Fox said playing in the Toronto bubble during the expanded playoffs last season was more of an adjustment than playing in front of no fans this year. He said he believed the team had started to get used to it, but is excited to welcome fans back into the building.
“It’s great, I’ve got some family coming to the game too, so obviously being from New York, it’s always special to play at the Garden with fans and for the guys to have even some family there I’m sure it’s pretty special,” he said. “It’s been a long time and we miss the fans at the Garden, so definitely excited to have them there.”
Quinn said he doesn’t have a timeline on for the return of Kaapo Kakko and K’Andre Miller from the COVID-19 protocol list, but noted that defenseman Jacob Trouba (broken thumb) has been making progress.
As for Artemi Panarin, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the team amid a political scandal in his home country of Russia, Quinn said there is still no timeline on their star winger’s return.
“Bread’s situation is still fluid, so we’re not sure when that’s going to get resolved and when he’s going to get back,” he said. “There’s just a lot of unknowns in those instances.”
Alexandar Georgiev is set to start in goal Friday against the Bruins, which will mark just his second start in the past six games.