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Avery excited to rejoin Rangers, awaits opportunity

by Dan Rosen
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The polarizing Sean Avery returned to the Rangers' practice facility Wednesday and was back on the ice with his NHL teammates for the first time since early October, when he was the final player cut following the preseason schedule.

Avery, who was recalled Tuesday after clearing re-entry waivers, took turns in a fourth-line rotation with Artem Anisimov, Erik Christensen and Andre Deveaux. He spoke to a large gathering of reporters in front of his locker afterwards and talked about his excitement level of being back with the team he loves and the confidence he gained by playing two games in the AHL.

"We're all here because we want to play for the Rangers," Avery said. "Everyone gets to make that decision at some point, and I love this team, I want to win, and I want to play as hard as I possibly can."

Sean Avery is ready to rejoin the Rangers lineup when called upon to do so. (Getty Images)
He'll have to wait for his opportunity, however.

Despite the audible and visual clamoring for Avery among some of the Madison Square Garden faithful, he will not be in the Rangers' lineup Thursday against Anaheim (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). Rangers coach John Tortorella will use the same lineup that produced the team's most complete performance of the season, a 5-2 win against San Jose on Monday at the Garden.

For what it's worth, Avery agrees with the coach's decision.

"I didn't skate because of re-entry waivers for a couple of days, and really the guys played pretty good last game, had a big win," Avery said. "I wouldn't change the lineup."

But one day soon Tortorella will change the lineup, and it's a strong bet Avery will get his chance. When it happens, Avery, who had only 4 points in 24 games after the All-Star break last season, insists he will play the game that hockey fans have come to recognize as his own.

"I play hard and try to play as fast as I can. I bring whatever is going to be asked of me at this point," Avery said. "I think my game is pretty self-explanatory as far as what it is and where it comes from and how it happens. I'm not changing anything."

Tortorella likely won't ask Avery to be a different player, and the last thing he wants to do is make a big deal of his return.

"This is the same situation as any other player being brought up and we want to conduct it that way," Tortorella said. "That's what is fair to Sean -- let's just conduct our business."


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When pressed, however, Tortorella admitted that he understands the fans and media don't view the Rangers' decision to bring Avery back as just a run-of-the-mill call-up to replace the injured Mike Rupp (knee).

Avery has been one of the League's most controversial figures over the past decade. He's had run-ins with officials, coaches and players, and gotten in trouble with the League over comments about ex-girlfriends who are dating other players. The latter incident resulted in a six-game suspension and mandatory anger-management classes.

Avery also famously spent a summer interning at Vogue magazine. Even his dark-rimmed glasses, such as the pair he's wearing in the picture on his player profile, have been a trending topic.

"For (the media) and outside, I understand that, but that doesn't change how I have to run the business here as far as what I do with the lineup," Tortorella said. "I know there's people, as far as fans and media, they have their favorite players and they have players they want to grind on. It doesn't matter either way to me. Whether they're grinding on them or they love them, it's not going to change my decision-making. It can't happen that way. You cannot run a business that way."

When Avery was cut in Stockholm, Tortorella rationalized the decision by saying Avery wasn't one of the top 13 forwards in camp and that the team had moved past the need to have a player like Avery.

Rupp's knee injury, the extent of which still won't be known for a couple of days, paved the way for Avery's return. First, though, every other team in the League had to pass on claiming him on re-entry waivers. Had another team claimed Avery, they would have been on the hook for only a quarter of Avery's $3.875 million cap hit.

The Stars are already paying half of Avery's salary because they put him on re-entry waivers in 2009, allowing the Rangers to claim him.

"I'm pretty sure that there were some teams that were interested, but nothing happened at the end and that's good for us," said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who is one of Avery's closest friends on the team. "I don't know what really goes through his head, but now he's focused, excited to be back here, and I'm happy for him that he's getting this opportunity. We'll see how things play out."

It should be fascinating to watch, but for now Avery is saying all the right things and planning to do all that he can to just be another player that helps the Rangers win hockey games.

He'll have to do it from the press box Thursday, but that's closer than he was when the week began.

"Listen, I love every game that I have ever played for this team," Avery said. "I love walking into the building, and I'm definitely excited about playing in the new building. I just want to help these guys win. I just want to play my game, play as hard as I can, and help them win."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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