Mats Zuccarello
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Monday night has been circled on most New York Rangers fans’ calendars with Mats Zuccarello returning, but the Hobbit provided an interesting tidbit. 

When the New York Rangers take to the ice Monday night, they will see a familiar face on the visitor’s bench. Mats Zuccarello will make his first visit to the MSG since his trade from the team last February.

Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal squaring off against his best friend for the first time in his NHL career. The emotions will surely run high when Zucc hits the ice for warmups.

On Feb. 23, Zuccarello was traded to the Dallas Stars for two draft picks. The transaction ended a long season filled with uncertainty with the Rangers waiting until the very last moment in making the deal to trade the fan-favorite.

Via Amalie Benjamin of, the Norwegian superstar talked about the lack of Rangers’ communication leading up to that sad day.

“You get invited to the business side of the League, where you feel at home and then suddenly they want you out of there,” Zuccarello said. “It was tough to accept in the beginning because you’re passionate about your team and loyal and everything like that and you gave everything every game and then suddenly it comes to an end. Suddenly they don’t want you anymore, or whatever, or they go in a different direction. It was hard to accept that in the beginning for me.”

The business side of the game withstanding, Zuccarello headed to Dallas, intent on helping his new club succeed in the postseason. That idea lasted one game with the Hobbit breaking his arm. He played in just two regular-season games but did record 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 13 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Over the summer, he signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Wild. He currently has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 19 games. It will be unusual, to say the least, to see him in another team’s jersey on the Garden ice Monday night.

Zuccarello is not sure what kind of reaction he will get from the Garden fans. Knowing how much the fans admired and loved the player, it’s safe to say the crowd will acknowledge his return with an MSG standing ovation.

With the drop of the puck comes another story, one that Mats Zuccarello will be well prepared for. It’s well-known that he admires and respects the Rangertown faithful.

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A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at