NEW YORK (AP) - Sean Avery could rejoin the New York Rangers a lot sooner than expected after being placed on re-entry waivers by the team that has missed his grit early this season.
Avery, banished to Connecticut of the AHL before the Rangers opened the season in Sweden, could be in New York's lineup as soon as Thursday against Anaheim. He was placed on re-entry waivers on Monday by the Rangers, who are trying to recall him. Any NHL team has until noon on Tuesday to make a claim on the noted agitator and assume a portion of his contract.
Avery's deal is already being split between the Rangers and the Dallas Stars. New York re-acquired Avery in March 2009 on re-entry waivers following the forward's highly publicized fallout with the Stars.
It is unlikely that a team will claim Avery, who just got back on the ice last weekend following a shoulder injury. If he goes unclaimed, Avery would immediately join the New York roster.
The Rangers, who hosted San Jose on Monday in the third game of a six-game homestand, have gotten off to a 3-3-3 start - including 0-1-1 in two home games following a season-opening, seven-game road trip. Chants and banners supporting Avery's return filled Madison Square Garden in losses to Toronto and Ottawa.
The team has heeded the fans' call.
New York is missing some of its edge without Avery, and rugged forward Mike Rupp - who was expected to help in the toughness department - is sidelined by an injury to his left knee. Rupp sat out his third straight game on Monday night.
Rupp went to a doctor on Monday, but there was no immediate update on his condition.
When the 31-year-old Avery was sent away, coach John Tortorella said it was because the Rangers had better players than him at the time. Only nine games into the season, that appears to have changed.
"Rupper has a lot to do with this. We're concerned with that," Tortorella said before Monday night's game. "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.
"Sean's biggest strength is his legs. He's a tremendous skater," he added.