NEW YORK – New York Rangers forward Sean Avery has been hospitalized after lacerating his spleen during a playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In a statement Wednesday, the team said the noted agitator was taken to St. Vincent’s Medical Center after New York’s 5-3 loss Tuesday night and was admitted following a CT scan.
Avery, whose spleen was not removed and isn’t expected to need surgery, likely will be hospitalized for a few days, team spokesman John Rosasco said.
Michael Fagan, spokesman for St. Vincent’s Medical Center, said Avery is in “stable” condition.
Rosasco said it’s unclear when Avery was injured, but the forward complained during the game of pain that got worse. Shortly after the game, Avery went in a car from Madison Square Garden to the hospital with team physician Dr. Andrew Feldman.
“He walked into the hospital,” Rosasco said. “He was never in a life-threatening situation.”
Avery’s mother, Marlene, said that Avery’s spleen had not ruptured, but he had suffered internal bleeding.
The spleen is an organ about the size of a fist on the left side of the body, behind the stomach. It helps the body fight infection and filters the blood. A person can live without a spleen, although they lose some of their ability to fight infections.
The 28-year-old Avery will be out for the remainder of the season, the Rangers said, but is expected to make a full recovery.
New York trails Pittsburgh 3-0 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series and can be eliminated as early as Thursday night in Game 4 at the Garden. The Rangers went 33-14-10 with Avery in the lineup this season and 9-13-3 when he was sidelined with injuries.
Avery was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings in February 2007 and sparked the team’s playoff run in which the Rangers went 17-6-6 in games he played following his arrival.
“We’re definitely going to miss him,” forward Ryan Callahan said after practice Wednesday. “He’s a real big part of the team. He’s come up with some real big points, scored big goals and obviously gets under the other team’s skin.
“It’s a tough loss to lose him. But we’ve got a lot of guys in here. Guys have to step up, and we have to concentrate on the next game.”
Avery had an assist on the Rangers’ second goal Tuesday night.
“He’s an important part of our team, obviously. There’s no doubt about it,” forward Brandon Dubinsky said. “At the same time, we have a job to do and it starts (Thursday) night. We can’t sit here feeling sorry for ourselves and being sad and having the ‘poor me’ thought because one of our players is out.”
Avery, set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, is known for pushing the envelope on the ice and off it.
In the Rangers’ first-round victory over New Jersey, Avery frustrated the Devils and goalie Martin Brodeur. The highlight came in Game 3 when Avery planted himself in the crease with his back to the action and faceguarded Brodeur.
“I’ve played for 15 years in this league. I’ve been watching games for 33 years. I had never seen that in my life,” Brodeur said.
The NHL moved quickly to forbid the activity.
Nonetheless, Brodeur was so incensed by Avery’s antics that he refused to shake his hand after the Rangers’ clinching victory in Game 5. Avery tied for the team lead with three goals in the series.
In his NHL time with the Detroit Red Wings, the Kings and the Rangers, he has elevated a knack of riling people into an art form. His targets find themselves mouthing off, or worse, getting so angered that they draw a penalty.
“On the ice, things always happen,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “It’s emotional and intense. Guys are not the best of friends on the ice, but you never want to see someone’s health in jeopardy. I think we all wish him the best.
“He’s a guy who brings a lot of emotion to his team. I think we are a good example, we learned from when we lost some guys that other guys step up. When you lose guys you push harder to be better. So I don’t think any of us will take that for granted.”
Avery has also had an ongoing feud with 41-year-old Penguins forward Gary Roberts, who has yet to play in this series. Despite his 21 seasons of NHL experience, Roberts lost his cool during a November game and took a four-minute high-sticking penalty against Avery that led to a goal in a Rangers victory.
“A guy like that, they take it a little bit more of an insult after you disrespect them and all they’ve done for the game and how great they are,” Avery said then of Roberts.
Roberts called Avery “an idiot” after his antics with Brodeur, but took a softer tone when told of the injury.
“There’s hockey and then there is life and your health. You don’t wish that on anybody,” Roberts said. “I don’t know Sean personally away from the rink. Obviously, we’ve had our comments throughout the media, but truthfully when it comes to this kind of stuff you just hope that he makes a full recovery.”