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Avery delighted to be back with Rangers

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

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Except for a lost bet with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at the end of practice, Sean Avery’s first day back on the ice with the Rangers was a rousing success on Wednesday morning.

With most of the players already having exited the ice, Avery challenged Lundqvist to a shootout, with a side bet to spice up the one-on-one. If Avery scored at least twice on his five shots, then Lundqvist would owe Avery dinner on the next road trip. If Lundqvist limited Avery to one goal or less, then Avery would pick up the check.

Sean Avery said he felt very comfortable in his return to the Rangers locker room Wednesday at the MSG Training Center.
“He needed to score two, and he only scored one, so I am going to pick somewhere very expensive,” joked the victor, Lundqvist. “It’s fun to see him again. I had a lot of fun times with him when he played here.”

Avery was back in familiar surroundings at the MSG Training Center on Wednesday, one day after being claimed off re-entry waivers from the Dallas Stars. He was seen excitedly catching up with staff members and teammates he knew from his previous stint with the Rangers, as well as meeting new teammates and a new coaching staff, both before and after a brisk 45-minute practice.

“It just felt great. It certainly felt comfortable and warm and just exciting to be back here,” said Avery. “It was like Christmas, running down the stairs before you get the presents.”

The 28-year-old Avery looked to be in excellent condition during the workout, a credit to the work he put in during his near-four-week stint with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the American Hockey League after completing a stay in a league-mandated counseling program.

Avery has not played an NHL game since Nov. 30, and is eager to return to action, though he has not yet been told whether or not he will be in the lineup on Thursday evening against the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum.

“Being away from the game really showed me how much I really love being a hockey player, what I have been doing since I was five years-old,” stated Avery. “To have it back is like there is something kind of refreshed inside of me that gives me that love for the game back. (It) is something I am extremely grateful for.”

Rangers head coach John Tortorella was pleased with what he saw out of Avery in practice on Wednesday, though he was also quick to point out that it is unfair to make a quick judgment based on one 45-minute on-ice session.

“(Sean) can skate, he can get there, and I think the system will lend itself to him because it’s not a bunch of thinking, it’s about pursuing,” noted Tortorella. “The team has done a pretty good of (playing the new style) and I think Sean will be effective at it, too.”

For his part, Avery expressed his enthusiasm about playing Tortorella’s preferred style.

“Torts plays an up-tempo style with a lot of skating and a lot of movement, so I think that is something that is a part of my game,” explained Avery. “That’s obviously going to be exciting to be in a system where those are the things he wants.”

During practice, Avery alternated line rushes with Nigel Dawes alongside Lauri Korpikoski and Petr Prucha. Tortorella stated afterwards that his line combinations from practice were not set in stone for Thursday’s game on Long Island, however.

No matter the logistics, Avery looked comfortable on the ice, in the dressing room, and even during his post-practice press conference. As he said, “it’s good to be home.” And that is exactly how it appeared. Sean Avery was back home with the Rangers, an organization that posted a 50-20-16 record when he was in their lineup the previous two seasons.

“I’m just here to help these guys win,” Avery simply stated. “I’ve been here before and I am back again, and I am thankful to be back and thankful for the opportunity. I am just going to make the most of it, play as hard as I can and help these guys win games.”
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