During his 19-year playing career with the Nordiques, Capitals and Avalanche, Dale Hunter heard his share of abuse from Rangers fans in Madison Square Garden.
But the sound he remembers most?
I always hated that door creaking when they closed the penalty box on me, Hunter said.
On Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Hunter makes his first trip back to New York as coach of the Capitals when his team faces off against the Eastern Conference leaders in the NBC Game of the Week.
I think everybody likes playing there, said Hunter, whose 3,563 penalty minutes rank second on the NHLs all-time list, behind Tiger Williams. The atmosphere there, its an original six team. It will be an intense game. Getting them after they play in Philly is an advantage for us. We definitely have to be ready to play.
The Rangers improved their conference-leading record to 35-13-5 with their 5-2 win against the Flyers on Saturday. The Capitals are in ninth place in the conference with a 28-21-5 mark.
Its a huge test, Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. We have to play our best hockey to win.
I think whenever youre on national TV and you have a big audience like that, its a little more exciting, Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman said. Those NBC games are more exciting because youve got more people watching at home. There are definitely a few more texts if you mess up, thats for sure.
The Capitals will have some hometown support in the Garden crowd. Several of the players fathers joined them for the train ride from Union Station to Penn Station and were scheduled to have dinner with the team Saturday night.
This is the fifth year the Capitals have invited players dads on a road trip. Over the previous four years, they are 7-1 in games their dads have watched.
Maybe the dads make the players go to bed early, Wideman said. They tuck us in and I think they get in a little later, usually.
Sundays game will mark the Capitals first visit to Madison Square Garden since its 850 million renovation project. The two teams split their first two meetings at the Verizon Center in Washington.
Im excited to see what it looks like, Wideman said. We havent been there since they changed it up. Its quite an experience to play at the Garden. The corners seem a little smaller, and they seem to be on you quicker.
Alzner said playing hockey at the Garden is no different from driving a cab in Manhattan.
I dont know if its because the stands are elevated, but it seems like the rink is smaller and everything happens a lot quicker. Everything about New York City is busy and fast, and its the same way on the ice.
Henrik Lundqvist improved to 25-11-4 with his win in Philadelphia and leads the NHL with six shutouts. If he starts against the Capitals on Sunday, they said theyll need to run as much traffic in his crease as possible.
When youre coming in on him and theres no screen, your best bet is to shoot it off a pad and see if you can get a rebound, Wideman said, because youre probably not going to beat him. Hes that good.
Even when he doesnt see the puck, he seems to make the save. We need to have one or two guys in front and hopefully we can bang a couple in because I dont think well beat him clean too often.