Before facing each other on the ice, the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers will pay tribute to a legend.
Mark Messier, one of the great players in the history of both franchises, will have his number 11 retired by the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The center won the Hart Trophy with both the Oilers and Rangers and played for five championship teams in Edmonton. But he cemented his legend in New York by leading the 1993-94 Rangers to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
For that, Messier's sweater will reside in the rafters next to the banner that commemorates the long-awaited championship.
"That's immediately where your eyes go to every time you come into the Garden. I think that symbolizes so many things to so many people," Messier said. "I don't look at it as my name I look it as our team.
"It's my name on the back of the jersey but I don't look at it as me being raised to the rafters because I don't think any one individual can stand alone."
Rangers general manager Glen Sather was Messier's coach and general manager in Edmonton. He also granted Messier's wish to be traded to New York in the summer of 1991.
"Other than my dad, no one believed in me more and did more for me as a person and player," Messier said.
The present-day Rangers seek their third straight win in the finale of a five-game homestand. Petr Sykora had a goal and an assist in his Ranger debut Tuesday night as New York defeated Calgary 4-2.
The Rangers acquired Sykora in a weekend trade with Anaheim. The right wing had seven goals and 20 points in 34 games with the Mighty Ducks, but seemed happy about joining a team that has six fellow players from his native Czech Republic.
"It feels great to be on this team," said Sykora. "It's not like coming to a new team. I know so many of the guys. I feel I'm a big part of it already."
The Oilers are 3-4 since tying a season high with five straight wins last month. They defeated Pittsburgh 3-1 on Wednesday night in the opener of a two-game road trip.
Shawn Horcoff powered Edmonton to the victory with three goals, including the winner 44 seconds into the third period, and the Oilers' Jussi Markkanen had to make only 17 saves for the victory.
"I thought our defense played extraordinary," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said.
The Oilers are 3-3-1 against Eastern Conference opponents.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 10): Oilers - 52 points, 3rd place, 3 PB, Northwest Division. Rangers - 55 points, 2nd place, 5 PB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Ryan Smyth, 19 goals; Horcoff and Ales Hemsky, 31 assists; Horcoff, 45 points; Ethan Moreau, 55 PIM. Rangers - Jaromir Jagr, 27 goals, 38 assists and 65 points; Michal Rozsival, 52 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 11): Oilers - Power play: 19.0 percent (51 for 269), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.7 percent (215 for 260), 13th. Rangers - Power play: 16.3 percent (40 for 245), 21st. Penalty killing: 85.6 percent (232 for 271), 2nd.
GOALTENDERS: Oilers - Markkanen (14-10-3, 3.07 GAA); Ty Conklin (5-4-1, 1 SO, 2.89). Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist
(16-5-5, 2, 2.06); Kevin Weekes (8-7-2, 3.05).
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 10, 2003; Oilers, 5-4. At New York, the Oilers took command with a three-goal second period and Jason Chimera scored the winner in the third.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Oilers - 13-8-2 on the road; Rangers - 13-5-4 at home.
- Associated Press