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Mark Messier won't play at Madison Square Garden until the Rangers' first regular-season home game to heighten the drama of his return to New York, new coach Ron Low said.

Messier, captain of the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup-winning team, signed a free-agent contract with the club in July that guarantees him $11 million over two years. He left the Rangers as a free agent in 1997.

The six-time Stanley Cup winner won't play in tonight's preseason home opener against the Philadelphia Flyers nor the Rangers' two other home preseason games on Sept. 25 and Sept. 29, Low said. He's planning his return to the Garden on Oct. 11 against the Montreal Canadiens.

"He doesn't care about playing in New York until the regular season," Low said. "It's going to be a pretty big night for Mark and the people of New York."

The Rangers open the regular season Oct. 7 at Atlanta.

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