NEW YORK (AP) - Sean Avery cleared re-entry waivers on Tuesday and might be back in the New York Rangers' lineup on Thursday night.
Avery could have been claimed by the other 29 NHL teams after he was placed on waivers Monday by the Rangers, but they all passed on the noted agitator before the 24-hour period expired. That cleared the way for Avery to be recalled by New York from the Connecticut Whale of the AHL on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old Avery is eligible to play Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks, but after a solid 5-2 victory by New York over San Jose on Monday night, Rangers coach John Tortorella might not have a spot for him. Tortorella said after the win that he didn't want to "force feed" the lineup.
When Avery was sent to the minors during the preseason, Tortorella gave the reason that the Rangers had better players than Avery for the available roster spots. The absence of rugged forward Mike Rupp, who is out because of a left knee injury, prompted the move to summon Avery to provide the missing grit.
Avery is expected to practice Wednesday with the Rangers, who had the day off on Tuesday.
The Rangers earned their first win at renovated Madison Square Garden on Monday after an 0-1-1 start to their six-game homestand, following a 3-2-2 season-opening road trip. Chants and banners supporting Avery's return filled the arena during all three home games.
Now the fan favorite is coming back for a third stint with the Rangers, although he didn't leave the organization before returning this time. New York re-acquired Avery in March 2009 on re-entry waivers following the forward's highly publicized fallout with the Dallas Stars.
Rupp has already missed three games, and there is no timetable yet for his return. He was seen by a doctor on Monday, but there was still no update on his condition following the game Monday night.
"Rupper has a lot to do with this. We're concerned with that," Tortorella said Monday. "I'm not sure what's going to happen. This is the right decision, the right hockey decision just like it was the right hockey decision when we sent Sean down. There's concern with Rupper. We're not sure he'll be able to play."
Avery scored a goal Friday in his season debut with Connecticut at Adirondack after he sat out the first seven games because of a shoulder injury. He has seven penalty minutes and 11 shots on goal in his two games with the Whale.
In 249 games with the Rangers over five seasons, Avery has 42 goals, 78 assists and 580 penalty minutes. New York is 129-89-31 with Avery in the lineup since he was first acquired on Feb. 5, 2007, from Los Angeles.