As important as Sean Avery is for the New York Rangers, he hasn't been able to help them defeat the New York Islanders this season. On Thursday night, he won't even be on the ice.
The Rangers, set to play their second stretch this season without their top agitator and key catalyst, look to snap a four-game losing streak against the Atlantic Division rival Islanders.
Shortly before this game, Avery will undergo surgery on his left wrist to repair injuries sustained in a fight, and when he was struck by a puck. There has been no announcement on how much time Avery will miss.
Avery initially hurt the wrist when he fought Toronto's Darcy Tucker on Nov. 10, then was hit by a shot from teammate Brendan Shanahan when the Rangers played at Tampa Bay on Nov. 21. The sixth-year winger was bothered by the wrist during last season's playoffs and considered offseason surgery, but decided against it.
The Rangers (13-9-2) are 26-10-7 with Avery since acquiring from Los Angeles in February last season, but went 4-5-1 when he was sidelined with a separated shoulder earlier this season.
"As much as we don't want him to miss a single game, the best thing we can do for him and our hockey club is to address that and take care of this thing quickly and have him not miss too much," Rangers coach Tom Renney said.
Avery has played in two of the Rangers' three matchups against the Islanders (13-8-1), but it hasn't made much of a difference. The Rangers are 0-3-1 since winning their previous three games against the Islanders, losing all three meetings this season by one goal.
The Islanders have also won five of their last six games at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers have lost two straight overall, including a 3-2 loss to Dallas on Sunday. It was also the Rangers' second straight loss at the Garden after a five-game winning streak there.
Jaromir Jagr, though, was able to snap out of a slump with a goal. Jagr had gone five games without a point since posting a goal and assist on Nov. 14 at New Jersey.
The Rangers could certainly use another strong game from Jagr - who has not scored a goal in his last seven games against the Islanders - as they'll likely face Rick DiPietro for the fourth time this season. DiPietro, who has made 17 straight starts, has a 1.33 goals-against average against the Rangers this season, and is 8-1-2 with a 1.89 GAA in his last 11 games against them.
DiPietro helped seal the Islanders' first shootout win of the season when he gloved Dean McAmmond's drive in the sixth round of the tiebreaker of a 3-2 win over Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa on Wednesday night.
DiPietro improved to 11-7-1 with a 2.31 GAA in 20 games this season, as the Islanders snapped an eight-game losing streak against the Senators and won their 11th game in 12 meetings against East playoff teams from last season.
"He gives us a chance to win every game," Islanders center Mike Sillinger said. "You kind of forget about him because you expect it every night. He's the reason why we have 13 wins."