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Atlantic: Avery was fully engaged against Flyers

by Phil Coffey
You can say this with certainty -- it rarely is dull around Sean Avery, who went from absorbing criticism from coach John Tortorella to scoring 2 goals and driving the Flyers crazy Sunday afternoon in a 3-1 Rangers victory.

Avery had been a healthy scratch Friday in Atlanta, taking a seat for not being engaged, according to Tortorella. By Sunday, he was at the center of things at Madison Square Garden against the Flyers.

"He plays better when he's a little angry," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist understated to the New York Times.

As for his game, Avery was succinct.

"Great game, great two points," he said. "Thanks for waiting, guys."

"The thing I liked about his game, he let his play do his talking," Tortorella said. "That is very important."

"I think you knew that once we saw Aves' number up on the board ... I said to myself, 'I bet we're going to see something pretty good,'" Rangers center Erik Christensen told's Dave Lozo. "Obviously 2 goals is a pretty big game, but I knew you'd notice him in some way (Sunday), and obviously he sure was noticeable."

As Lozo reported, Avery drew a roughing penalty on Scott Hartnell in the second period and an interference call on Braydon Coburn in the third.

"That's his game," Hartnell said. "You've got to expect that every once in a while from him, to suck a guy into a penalty. But I punched him pretty good, right in the jaw, and we killed off the penalty. You just have to be careful with him. We have to do a better job keeping our cool and beat them on the scoreboard."

"Sean deserves the credit," Tortorella said. "If he concentrates and engages in all aspects, he's a pretty good player. The thing I liked about his game was he let his play do his talking. Sean needs to realize that he's a really good player."

Count the Flyers' Ian Laperriere among those not convinced of that.

"Those people are getting fooled by his act," Laperriere, who played with Avery in Los Angeles from 2002-04, told reporters. "I know he is the worst teammate I've played with. And I know (the Rangers) feel the same way. That's all I'm going to say."

Bulletin board material --
Expect these words from Rangers coach John Tortorella to be prominent in the Flyers' dressing room.

"I wished he played more," Tortorella said of Flyers tough guy Riley Cote, who played just 4:07 Sunday. "He's a non-factor. I wish (Danny) Briere was out. I wish (Jeff) Carter was out. Those are the guys you have to look out for."

Travel not a factor --
The Flyers experienced a commuter's nightmare trying to get to New York Saturday after their win against Chicago. The trip from Philadelphia by train takes roughly 90 minutes on a good day, but the Flyers didn't experience a good day, spending 6 1/2 hours on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor as miserable weather conditions saw catenary wires and trees fall on the tracks.

The Flyers' train got stuck 500 feet from Metuchen station in New Jersey. After sitting there for three hours, a diesel locomotive pushed the Flyers to the station, where they disembarked and took a bus the rest of the way.

They left Philadelphia around 5:15 and didn't arrive in Manhattan until after midnight. But to their credit, the players did not use the long trip as an excuse for their play against the Rangers.

"It's always tough when you're on such a high to try to reproduce the same emotion the next day. But there is no excuse," Danny Briere told reporters. "They came out. They wanted it more than us. They were more hungry. We have to realize that we haven't clinched anything yet. Yes, we've put ourselves in a good position, but the way we came out we had no emotion.

"This time of the season, games are too crucial. We can be tired when the season is over and the playoffs are over. Not at this point."

"We got outworked," Chris Pronger said. "We played a desperate team. We knew they were desperate. We knew what they were coming in to do and we didn't respond very well."

Pens get win, injury scares -- The Penguins will take the win, and the good news that what appeared to be a serious injury to Sidney Crosby wasn't and what could have been an equally tough injury to Evgeni Malkin is being listed as day-to-day.

Malkin suffered an undisclosed injury Sunday in a 2-1 win against Tampa Bay. He was hit in the foot by a shot from teammate Kris Letang, but X-rays Monday showed no breaks.

As for Crosby, he fell awkwardly to the ice in a collision with Steve Downie and struggled to the bench under his own power. Just 40 seconds into the game, Downie and Crosby got tangled up and Crosby's leg bent outward at the knee.

"I was pretty scared," Crosby told Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Crosby missed a couple shifts, but returned.

"I don't think there's a need for his leg to go behind my knee like that... it's a little questionable," Crosby said. "I was just lucky my toe wasn't actually caught on the ice. It was able to kind of get along and slide ... (because) it was fresh ice."

Crosby said he "didn't hurt anything significant out there."

Martin finally smiles -- After a season of frustration and disappointment, Paul Martin finally smiled Monday morning as he sat among his New Jersey Devils teammates at a morning skate.
Finally, Martin's broken left forearm has healed to the point that he can think about hockey again after seeing so much of the regular season -- and a spot with Team USA at the Olympics -- scuttled by the injury. Martin is hoping to be back in the lineup Saturday against the Blues.
"I'm definitely anxious and excited to get back in the lineup, but right now I have to take it day by day and hopefully I'll be in there soon," Martin told's Mike Morreale. "I've learned my lesson about setting dates on when I'll be back. The bone is 100 percent, but from being in a cast so long, it's pretty weak and pretty tight so it still has to loosen up and get some strength back."

Martin had a bone graft, and a titanium plate and screws inserted into his left forearm Dec. 22 to promote healing. He's currently wearing a five-inch long brace on the forearm, which, he says, feels good.

"I want to get in there as soon as I can, but it's going to take time to get the strength back," he said. "It's already shown improvement from where it was. My goal would be this Saturday, but if the doctors say otherwise, maybe I could get in there even sooner."

Around the Atlantic --
New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire is not pleased with the Devils' power play, especially in light of a costly shorthanded goal allowed to the Islanders in Saturday's 4-2 loss. "Teams protect certain things on the penalty kill and they give you other plays that they can deal with and you have to take what they're giving you and try to take it to your advantage," Lemaire told reporters. "What we've been doing is trying to make the plays that are not there that they're protecting (against). As an example, if you get a guy in the slot and they have a guy protecting this and you still want to send it there, it will be hard to have success. So you have to take something else. If this guy (in the slot) is protected, then somebody else is open and that's where you have to go." ... Heading into Monday's game against Boston, the Devils had surrendered an NHL low 160 goals this season, and New Jersey's 2.39 goals-against average is tied with Phoenix for the League lead. That puts New Jersey in the running for its first William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals against since 2003-04. ... The Islanders' penalty killing has been hot of late, not only killing off 11-straight penalties, but scoring twice shorthanded in the process. "It has improved a lot," Kyle Okposo said. "Not just statistically speaking, but the number of chances other teams are getting and where those chances are coming from." ... Isles goalie Rick DiPietro, who is on injured reserve with swelling in his right knee, will not make the three-game trip to the West Coast. ... Simon Gagne played his 650th game as a Flyer Sunday, passing John LeClair for 10th on the franchise's all-time list. Gagne is just one point away from passing Gary Dornhoefer, also for 10th place, on the Flyers' all-time scoring list with 518 points. ... Against Tampa Sunday, Penguins right wing Tyler Kennedy, a healthy scratch for the previous two games, and defenseman Jay McKee, who hadn't played in five of the previous six, returned to the Penguins' lineup. Center Max Talbot and defenseman Alex Goligoski were scratched to make room for them.
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