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Stars hammer slumping Rangers 10-2 @NHLdotcom

If nothing else, the New York Rangers made it clear that suspended Dallas agitator Sean Avery would have no problem finding a spot in their lineup.

Following a New York Post report that New York has had front-office talks about the possibility of bringing back Avery, the Stars scored six third-period goals Friday night in a 10-2 home victory over the slumping Rangers.

"I can't comment on that," Rangers coach Tom Renney said before the game. "He's Dallas Stars property. It's ridiculous for me to even go down that road."

If the Rangers reacquire Avery on waivers, they would be responsible for half of the rest of his four-year, $15.5 million contract he signed with Dallas in the offseason after leaving New York as a free agent. For Avery to be eligible for the playoffs, the Rangers would have to pick him up before the March 4 trade deadline.

Avery's short stay with Dallas ended when he made crude comments to reporters about former girlfriends before a Dec. 3 game in Calgary. He was suspended for six games by the NHL and entered a counseling program. Stars officials and players have said they don't want Avery back under any circumstances.

Avery's agent, Pat Morris, told The Dallas Morning News that his client is close to completing the requirements of his anger management therapy and could petition the NHL for reinstatement as soon as Monday.

"Sean is a good hockey player," Renney said. "He can help anybody he plays for, there's no question about that. ... This is a guy who can play and is a great teammate. He was always there for his teammates and laid it on the line every night."

In other NHL games Friday night, it was: Pittsburgh 4, Columbus 1; New Jersey 5, Atlanta 1; Buffalo 3, Montreal 2; and Nashville 2, Minnesota 0.

In Dallas, Mike Ribeiro and James Neal each scored twice, and Brian Sutherby, Brad Richards, Jere Lehtinen, Fabian Brunnstrom, Steve Ott and Darryl Sydor also scored for the Stars, 9-3-2 in their last 14 games - and 10-1-1 in their last 12 at home. Dallas also is 17-7-3 since Avery left the team.

"You can't be more disappointed than what happened tonight," Renney said.

The Stars had their highest-scoring game since the franchise moved to Dallas after the 1992-93 season, while the Rangers allowed 10 or more goals for the first time since a 10-4 loss to Pittsburgh on April 9, 1993.

"This is a big loss, there's no question about that," Renney said. "But you know what, 3-2 or 10-2, a loss is a loss. The one thing we can't do is hide behind a low-scoring game. This time around, we got pounded."

Nikolai Zherdev scored twice for the Rangers, 0-3-1 in their last four games. The Rangers have scored two goals or fewer in 11 of their last 18 games.

"No one's giving up and no one's saying it's rock bottom," said Scott Gomez, benched in the third period. "Embarrassed is a strong word, but that's where we are."

At Pittsburgh, Kris Letang had his second two-goal game in 10 days and Pittsburgh won successive games for only the second time in 2 1/2 months.

Sidney Crosby set up both of Letang's goals and scored into an empty net in the final minute for the Penguins, who had lost three of four but moved within one point of the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Petr Sykora also scored for Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves, allowing only Fedor Tyutin's goal on a deflection midway through the third.

At Atlanta, Kevin Weekes made 31 saves, and New Jersey scored three goals in the first 12 minutes to recover from its only loss in three weeks.

Zach Parise and John Madden each had a goal and an assist, and Travis Zajac, David Clarkson and Brian Gionta also scored. The Devils were coming of a loss to Washington on Tuesday night that snapped their winning streak at eight games.

Colby Armstrong scored for Atlanta.

At Buffalo, N.Y., Ryan Miller made 35 saves, and Nathan Paetsch, Jaroslav Spacek and Tim Connolly scored to help Buffalo win its fifth straight home game.

Saku Koivo ended Miller's career-best shutout streak at 157 minutes, 13 seconds midway through the second period. Roman Hamrlik also scored for Montreal.

The Sabres moved into a tie with idle Philadelphia for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, and within three points of Montreal. The Canadiens are 2-6 in their past eight and have lost five straight road games.

At St. Paul, Minn., Dan Ellis made 22 saves for a shutout in his first start in nearly three weeks, and Jason Arnott and David Legwand scored to help Nashville win its fourth straight and fifth in six games.

Ellis, who has three shutouts this season, hadn't played since being pulled in his a Jan. 17 start after allowing three goals on his first four shots. Pekka Rinne started the last six games and has emerged as the No. 1 goalie.

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