Linden's final NY trip?

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

The Vancouver Canucks woke up today in a city that doesn't sleep. It's the city where 11 years ago they came ever-so-close to being number one, top of the heap.

Canucks (18-9-2) meet the New York Rangers this afternoon at Madison Square Garden (4 p.m. PST, CKNW/Sportsnet). It's their first road game this season against an Eastern conference opponent. The short two-game road trip concludes Thursday in Philadelphia against Peter Forsberg and the Flyers before home games Saturday and Monday versus the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings.

This afternoon's game in Manhattan could be Trevor Linden's last visit to the scene of the Canucks' most famous loss - game seven of 1994's Stanley Cup finals.

"I don't know what the future holds," said Linden, 35. "It's a great building and a whole lot of fun."

On June 14, 1994, Linden played the game of his life when he scored both goals in the Canucks' 3-2 loss. If the Canucks had been the winning side, Linden surely would've been the Conn Smythe award winner for his 12 goals and 13 assists in the two dozen playoff games that comprised Vancouver's sensational spring.

"It was a long time ago," Linden said. "We had a great series with them. It was one of the great series there ever was."

With the league's new scheduling regimen, Canucks aren't going back to Madison Square Garden until the 2008-2009 season when Linden will be 38. That is unless the teams find a way for a Stanley Cup rematch.

Almost midway through the third month of the season, that's not an outlandish possibility to ponder.

Rangers lead the Atlantic division with a 20-8-4 record. They're 10-2-2 at home and have won eight of their last 10 games. The reason? Ex-Canucks and excelling Czechs.

Head coach Tom Renney's approach, which fell upon deaf ears in Vancouver, seems to be working at MSG. He has defenseman Jason Strudwick, goaltender Kevin Weekes and forward Marek Malik in his lineup. Malik went east as a free agent last summer and is among six Czechs on the roster. By comparison, the Rangers count seven Canadians.

Leading the Czech charge is a rejuvenated Jaromir Jagr. The once mighty and mulleted "Jarry the Kid" saw goal production turn into goal reduction when he left the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Washington Capitals in 2001. A 2004 trade to New York and a year of playing in Europe during the lockout helped further mature Jagr, who was drafted fifth overall in 1990 at B.C. Place Stadium. He's the National Hockey League's top scorer and first to reach 50 points (23 goals and 27 assists).

"He has been their best player and among the best players in the league," said Canucks' head coach Marc Crawford. "They've got so many Czechs on the team, they understand each other well and enjoy playing together."

Jagr is finding success with the two Martins, countrymen Martin Straka and Martin Rucinsky. The latter was one of Brian Burke's rent-a-player acquisitions and had a cup of coffee (Starbucks, perhaps?) in Vancouver during the Canucks' abbreviated 2004 playoff run.

Canucks' forward Matt Cooke made the trip and could be ready as soon as tonight. He began November with a broken jaw in practice. Alex Auld will start in goal.


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