GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Sean Avery’s NHL return is on hold for at least one more game.
Avery rejoined the New York Rangers for practice Wednesday morning but was ruled out of Thursday night’s home game against the Anaheim Ducks. Coach John Tortorella wants to play the same lineup that beat the San Jose Sharks 5-2 on Monday night.
“I didn’t skate because of re-entry waivers for a couple of days, and you know what, really the guys played pretty good last game, had a big win, so I wouldn’t change the lineup,” the unusually mellow Avery said.
The Rangers (4-3-3) earned their first win at renovated Madison Square Garden on Monday after going 0-1-1 in their first two home games.
“That was the biggest strength of the game. Everyone contributed and we did the things we needed to do to start being more consistent playing the right way,” Tortorella said. “This is the same situation as any other player being brought up, and we want to conduct it that way. I think that’s what fair to Sean.
“We’re going to run it just like we always do as far as guys coming to our team.”
Avery returned to the Rangers on Tuesday after he cleared re-entry waivers and was recalled from the Connecticut Whale of the AHL following a two-game stint there after recovering from a shoulder injury.
He practised with the Rangers on Wednesday for the first time since he was sent to the minors just before the regular season began. Avery said he felt good and repeated how happy he was to be back.
Now he just has to be patient until he gets his chance to play again in a game. Once he does, he will have great support behind him from the home fans who have chanted his name and hung banners calling for his return.
“I loved every game that I’ve ever played for this team,” Avery said. “I am definitely excited about playing in the new building. I just want to help these guys win. I just want to play my game and play as hard as I can and help them win.
“Listen, we’re all here because we want to play for the Rangers.”
Avery wasn’t sure he would ever get that chance again. He could have been claimed by the other 29 NHL teams after he was placed on waivers Monday by the Rangers, but they all passed on him before the 24-hour period expired. That cleared the way for Avery to be recalled by New York on Tuesday.
“I’ve had a lot of things happen to me over my career,” the 31-year-old forward said. “I never rule anything out. Decisions that are out of your control are always out of your control. All you have to do is work hard and stay positive. I have learned that as time goes on. I just try to work hard. Usually if that’s the case, good things are going to happen.
“Whether you’re a professional athlete or you’re not, it’s all the same. I’m not looking back or gauging my surprise level. I am just here. I had a pretty good practice. I am excited to be back, I’m excited for the guys to play well tomorrow.”
When Avery was sent to the minors, Tortorella gave the reason that the Rangers had better players than him for the available roster spots. The absence of rugged forward Mike Rupp, who is out because of a left knee injury, prompted the move to summon Avery to provide the missing grit.
“He is going to put people on their heels,” said forward Brad Richards, also a teammate of Avery’s with the Dallas Stars. “That has always been his assets. He does other things also, but that’s where he is most effective.
“He is going to come in and help, but I don’t think we’re lost here this week and trying to find our games. We’re all starting to feel better, and hopefully he can just come in and add to that and bring us energy.”
There is still no timetable for Rupp to return, but Tortorella said doctors are getting closer to determining what course of action will be taken.
What that means for Avery is unclear. If Rupp returns soon, Avery’s NHL stint could be short. He was reacquired by New York in March 2009 on re-entry waivers following the forward’s highly publicized fallout with the Stars.
“I know fans and the media have their favourite players and they have players they want to grind on,” Tortorella said. “It doesn’t matter either way to me whether they’re grinding on him or they love him, it’s not going to change my decision-making.
“It can’t happen that way. We cannot run a business that way.”
Avery scored Friday in his season debut with Connecticut at Adirondack after he sat out the first seven games because of a shoulder injury. He has seven penalty minutes and 11 shots on goal in his two games with the Whale.
In 249 games with the Rangers over five seasons, Avery has 42 goals, 78 assists and 580 penalty minutes. New York is 129-89-31 with Avery in the lineup since he was first acquired Feb. 5, 2007, from Los Angeles.
“Sean is bringing something that no other players have in the league,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. “There is a lot of edge to his game.
“He can play in different ways, but in some games when you have that edge and in-your-face mentality, there is not a lot of guys that can do that.”