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Avery could provide spark down stretch

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
RANGERS ON DEMAND

Albert and Maloney on the Addition of Avery Watch
Tortorella Post-Practice Remarks Tuesday Watch
Callahan, Betts, Lundqvist on Avery Return Watch







Return to Rangers a Thrill for Avery
Official Press Release: Rangers Claim Avery

By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com

Several weeks of outsiders’ speculation morphed into reality shortly after the Rangers wrapped up practice on Tuesday morning at the MSG Training Center. Sean Avery is indeed returning to the Rangers after being acquired off re-entry waivers from the Dallas Stars.

“I think it’s going to be great having Sean back,” said Rangers captain Chris Drury. “All I need to know, and the guys in this room need to know, is: one, he wants to be here, wants to be a Ranger, and he loves wearing our jersey and loves living in New York. Secondly, he wants to win a Stanley Cup. What more could you ask for out of a teammate?”

With Sean Avery in the lineup during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 NHL seasons, the Rangers gained at least one standings point in 66 of 86 regular-season games
Avery returns to New York after departing from the Rangers as a free agent last  summer, when he signed with Dallas. He appeared in 23 games with the Stars, recording three goals, 10 points, and 77 penalty minutes, before stepping away from the game to take part in the NHL’s counseling program.

After being reinstated by the league upon completion of the program, the 28-year-old Avery cleared waivers and was sent to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League four weeks ago, where he notched two goals and an assist in eight games before being placed on re-entry waivers by the Stars on Monday.

“Glen (Sather) believes in giving second chances,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “Sean was an effective player here before. And this is about trying to make the team better. Sean Avery is a player coming to the New York Rangers organization, and we want him to fit in and play under a team concept. If he does that, we feel he can be effective.”

The best of Avery’s seven seasons in the NHL came as a member of the Rangers. He appeared in 86 regular season games with the Blueshirts after being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 5, 2007, and he registered 23 goals, 30 assists, 53 points, and 212 penalty minutes in that span.

The Rangers posted an impressive 50-20-16 record with Avery in the lineup, and were 9-13-3 when he was not in uniform. Avery also helped the Rangers reach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of his two seasons in New York, putting up 5-7-12 numbers in 18 post-season matches. Last spring, he tallied four goals in the playoffs, tied for the second highest total on the club.

“He’s a competitive, fiery guy who’s going to help us win a lot of big games down the stretch here,” noted Drury. “I like to describe him as a guy who literally played his guts out for us last year. He almost lost his spleen (an injury suffered in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins) in the playoffs. I mean what more could you ask for from a guy?”

Added goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, “He plays with passion every night, and he’s a really good hockey player when he wants to be.”

Tortorella would not commit as to where he envisioned Avery fitting in to the lineup, or if he would even play when the Rangers resume game action on Thursday night against the Islanders. The head coach said he first wanted to see Avery take part in practice -- which he will do on Wednesday morning -- in order to evaluate his conditioning and how well he will adapt to the coach’s up-tempo system.

A hard-skating, wrecking-ball of a forward with a pair of fairly soft hands, Avery should fit quite nicely into the aggressive style of play that Tortorella favors.

“We feel that he will provide a little more jam on our team, especially in this division here, and hopefully he’ll kick in a couple of goals,” Tortorella said of Avery, who has 68 goals and 1,144 penalty minutes in 402 career NHL games. “I’ve never coached Sean, and I want to see what he’s all about. I’ve seen him play, and when he’s under a team concept, he’s an effective player.”

As for welcoming Avery back to the team, Rangers players were adamant in their support and echoed a common refrain that as long as he is willing to help the club reach their team-oriented goals, he will fit right in with the entire squad.

“I think it’s going to be a good acquisition for us because he is so effective on the ice with what he does, and I think he’s only going to bring more energy, grit, and fire to the lineup we already have,” stated winger Ryan Callahan. “… I like him as a guy and I like him on the ice. So, I think it’s going to be good for us.”

A tremendous fan favorite with the crowd at Madison Square Garden, Avery’s first possible chance to reconnect with The Garden Faithful would be at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, when the Blueshirts play a nationally televised game against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins.

Avery is eligible for the playoffs because he joined the team prior to Wednesday’s 3 p.m. ET NHL trade deadline. Tortorella was asked on Tuesday if he expected the Rangers to make other adjustments to their roster before the deadline.

“I know Glen Sather wants to improve this hockey club, and at trade deadlines that’s what every general manager wants to do,” said Tortorella. “There’s not one specific thing, but if there is something that pops up that he thinks will help the club I’m sure we’ll explore that. I don’t think there are going to be any blockbusters going on here as far as the Rangers are concerned. But whatever happens, we’re going to try and make this the best team we possibly can down this stretch because we are fighting for our lives to get into the playoffs.”
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