Connoly looks ready to go tonight

Nothing like a Broadway debut to elevate the excitement of a mid-week hockey game.

For the opening act at Madison Square Garden Thursday night, we have the Rangers playing their first home contest of the season at the renovated and self-proclaimed “most famous arena on earth.”

Also under the lights will be the Big Apple opening for Brad Richards, the marquee acquisition of this summer’s free agency sweeps but a player who has struggled at times early in his Rangers tenure.

And not to be outdone, the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs will trot out the long-awaited start of centre Tim Connolly, the consolation prize for not landing Richards.

It’s quite an environment for Connolly to begin his career as a Leaf, the first meeting of the season between two teams that it wouldn’t be a stretch to see locked in a battle for an Eastern Conference playoff spot months from now.

While coach Ron Wilson wouldn’t make it official, Connolly skated a full 90-minute practice at the Garden Thursday afternoon between wingers Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel and is anxious to begin the work he was brought here to do.

“They are really clicking right now and playing extremely well together,” Connolly said of Kessel and Lupul. “I’m just going to try to stay out of their way. Get them the puck as much as possible and just try do all the little things right.