Rangers home, to new-look MSG

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- For the first time this season, the New York Rangers got a glimpse of their new digs at the renovated Madison Square Garden.

The arena's facelift, the first phase of a three-year process projected to cost $850 million, includes a completely redone lower bowl, wider concourses and gleaming state-of-the-art dressing rooms.

The 3-2-2 squad hopes it can christen it properly Thursday in the home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We love coming in here today, we love what we see as far as the transformation that has gone on, but you need to win," coach John Tortorella said. "That's what makes the building good -- winning in it. So that's our main focus."

The Rangers finished 21st in the league with an underwhelming 20-17-4 home record last season. Following a seven-game road trip to begin this season for the first time in franchise history, the team will play six games straight at the new-look MSG.

The team won't play a game out of the Eastern time zone until Dec. 15 against the St. Louis Blues.

"We're excited to be back. It's good to be back home and playing on home ice again," captain Ryan Callahan said.

Marquee free-agent acquisition Brad Richards will experience the Garden for the first time as a Ranger. The 31-year-old top-line center said it's something he has thought about since signing a nine-year, $60 million deal in July.

"Took forever to get there," Richards said, jokingly. "When you sign with a new team the first thing you want to do is get in the building and play in front of those fans, but that hasn't been the case. I'm excited, I'm sure I'll have butterflies tomorrow. I can't wait to experience it."

After spending his NHL career in smaller markets -- Tampa Bay and Dallas -- Richards was enticed by the bright lights of Broadway and the promise of playing for an Original Six team with a fervent fan base.

"There's no better feeling on the ice when you have great fans. You feel a little bigger, a little stronger, a little faster. I know they can get on you, but that's good," Richards said. "They deserve to be able to do that. They come and pay to watch us play and want a good performance.

"That's part of the lure of playing here is to do that. It will be a great experience in my life and my career. I can't wait to start."

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPNNewYork.com.