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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rangers Face Sabres in Opener, Finally

NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League season will finally begin with eight games Friday night, but there's only one place to be for North American hockey fans that night: Madison Square Garden.


That's where the New York Rangers will play the Buffalo Sabres. Ranger fans have waited a long time for this night -- first, 54 years for the Stanley Cup, and then another three months for the 1994-95 season to open.


With the owners' lockout behind them, the Rangers will finally raise the Stanley Cup banner to go alongside the other three that have hung there since 1940.


The Vancouver Canucks played in a highly charged environment in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Now it's the Sabres' turn to play in another emotional environment.


John Muckler, the Sabres' coach and general manager, doesn't think it will affect his team.


"We have an older team," Muckler said. "We're pretty mature. I would like to think we can handle a situation like that."


Muckler said the Rangers have requested the Sabres not sit on the bench during the ceremony, "out of courtesy."


"I haven't talked to (Rangers general manager) Neil Smith yet," Muckler said, "but I'm planning to have our players on the bench. We want to watch the ceremonies, too."


The Rangers will open the season with four home games within a six-day period under the NHL's revised schedule.


The Rangers will feature many of the same players who helped them win the Cup last season, including Mark Messier.


The Ranger captain, who had still not settled his contract dispute with management, said he would be at the Garden to help raise the banner.


Meanwhile, the so-called "Madhouse on Madison" will be quiet in Chicago while the Blackhawks travel to Detroit for their opening-night game. The Blackhawks, who will be playing in the new United Center, across from the old, noisy arena on Madison Avenue, won't christen their new place until next Wednesday against Edmonton.


In other games Friday, it's Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay, Chicago at Detroit, Calgary at Winnipeg, Anaheim at Edmonton, Dallas at Vancouver, St. Louis at San Jose and Toronto at Los Angeles.


The Stars are looking to redeem themselves following their loss to the Canucks in last year's playoffs.


Dallas coach Bob Gainey said the game might be considered more important for his team, "because that's where our season ended. If we could reverse the outcome of that game, that could get our season off to a good start."