-- The reception from the sold-out crowd should be the kind a player never forgets. The emotions that will be running through Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist
should be spine-tingling.
The fans in Gothenburg, Sweden, gave hometown hero Daniel Alfredsson
a five-minute ovation when he brought the Ottawa Senators
in to play the Frolunda Indians at the Scandinavium in 2008. Lundqvist likely will receive a welcome similar to that when he brings the New York Rangers
into the same arena to play his old team Friday (1 p.m. ET).
"It's hard not to think about it," Lundqvist said Thursday prior to the Rangers' game here against Czech club HC Sparta Prague. "The last few days it feels like 80 percent of the time I think about going back home and playing there."
Since returning to New York in August, Lundqvist has been expressing his feelings of nervousness and excitement about playing against his old team, one that is captained by his twin brother, Joel.
"The challenge for me is going to be to stay focused on my job, but that's a good thing. That's what I need, a test going into the season. The toughest part coming off a long break is the mental part, focusing the right way, and (Friday) is going to be a big test of that. We'll see how I react and how I play, but I'm going to try to enjoy it, because it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me." -- Henrik Lundqvist
Now that the game is 24 hours away, he hardly can contain himself.
He's trying as much as he can, though, because as much as it is a huge moment for him to return to Gothenburg to play Frolunda, Lundqvist also sees this game as the exact personal challenge he needs to prepare himself for another NHL season.
"The challenge for me is going to be to stay focused on my job, but that's a good thing. That's what I need, a test going into the season," Lundqvist said. "The toughest part coming off a long break is the mental part, focusing the right way, and (Friday) is going to be a big test of that. We'll see how I react and how I play, but I'm going to try to enjoy it, because it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me."
Lundqvist's childhood dream was fulfilled when he played parts of five seasons (2000-05) with Frolunda's top team in the Swedish Elite League. He came through the Indians' system and won a Swedish Elite League title with some of the players who will be trying to beat him Friday.
To say this game means a lot to Lundqvist is the ultimate understatement. His current teammates know that.
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"From what I've heard it's sold out, and talking to Hanky, he's pretty excited," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan
told NHL.com. "He's supposed to get a warm welcome there and I think the guys that do play in that game will want to try to win it for Hanky. It's going to be a big night for him and hopefully we get a win for him."
Lundqvist also feels lucky Friday isn't his only night in Gothenburg with the Rangers. The team scheduled a complete day off Saturday so the goalie could play host and show his teammates around the city he still loves and visits every summer.
"A lot of guys haven't been there before, so for him to be able to guide us through the city, it's going to be special for him," Callahan said.
Special to a point.
Lundqvist doesn't want his homecoming to get in the way of the Rangers' master plan, which is to get ready for the season-opener in Stockholm on Oct. 7.
"It's fun that I get some time to show the team around a little bit on Saturday, but my first focus is on playing the game and preparing for the season," Lundqvist said. "(Friday's game) is an important step for me to get my game going and then we'll have some fun on the day off.
"I want everybody to have a good time, but also it's an important time for us to prepare for the season. I'm going to try to do both."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl