NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, January 24th (All times eastern)
Atlanta Thrashers (23-25-3) at New York Rangers (23-21-6), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Madison Square Garden will be full of energy tonight, as the Rangers will honor Brian Leetch before battling the Atlanta Thrashers for a second straight time in New York.
Prior to tonight's contest, the Rangers will lift Leetch's number 2 into the rafters, marking just the fifth uniform number retired in team history. Leetch will join Rod Gilbert, Ed Giacomin, Mike Richter and Mark Messier as the only players in team history to receive the honor.
Leetch won the 1994 Stanley Cup championship in New York along with Messier and Richter.
The American-born defenseman was drafted ninth overall by the Rangers in 1986 and was with the club from the 1987-88 season through 2003-04. He skated in 1,129 games with New York, posting 240 goals and 741 assists, and his 981 points rank second in team history behind only Gilbert's 1,021.
Leetch is the Rangers' all-time leader in assists and goals by a defenseman, and accumulated a number of awards in a New York sweater, including the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1994. He is the only American to win that award as the playoff MVP.
Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Leetch won a pair of Norris Trophy awards and the Calder Trophy while with New York. He also was the club's captain from October 3, 1997 through July 12, 2000.
His New York career came to an end when he was traded to Toronto on March 3, 2004. He played one season in Boston after the lockout and retired on May 24, 2007.
Following the ceremony, the Rangers will play their final game before the All- Star break and second straight against Atlanta at home. On Tuesday, Henrik Lundqvist stopped 14 shots for his seventh shutout of the season in a 4-0 victory.
Lundqvist is tied for the league lead in shutouts this year and has 14 in his career. He is the first Ranger to post at least seven shutouts in a season since Eddie Giacomin in 1970-71.
Jaromir Jagr had a goal and two assists, while Fedor Tyutin added three assists for the Rangers, who had lost three of four coming into the contest and are last in the tight Atlantic Division. However, the club is just seven points back of first-place New Jersey.
New York is 16-11-0 at home, having won three of its last four at Madison Square Garden, and begins a four-game road trip on Tuesday in Carolina.
Kari Lehtonen made 35 saves on Tuesday for the Thrashers, who have dropped their last four games. Lehtonen fell to 4-2-0 with a 2.83 goals-against average in seven career games versus New York.
Atlanta played most of the game without Ilya Kovalchuk, who was ejected with 36 seconds left in the first period after he left his feet on a boarding check on Michal Rozsival. Rozsival laid on the ice for a couple of minutes, but eventually got to his feet and finished the game. Kovalchuk was assessed a five-minute major for boarding and a 10-minute game misconduct.
Hopefully Atlanta got used to the idea of Kovalchuk not being on the ice, as he was suspended for tonight's contest because of the hit.
Kovalchuk is second in the NHL with 37 goals, two back of Washington's Alexander Ovechkin. He is also tied for second in the league with 63 points, though he hasn't scored in five straight games.
The Russian sniper has 11 goals and 10 assists in 22 career games against the Rangers.
The Thrashers are three points back of first-place Carolina in the Southeast Division.
Atlanta is 11-13-1 on the road this year and will play in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Atlanta has taken two of three against New York this year and seven of the last nine. The Thrashers had a three-game win streak at Madison Square Garden halted with Tuesday's loss.
01/24 10:46:22 ET