Avery and the Rangers hoping for a possible reunion in the near future

Before the start of Saturday night’s Manitoba Moose-Hartford Wolf Pack AHL hockey game, the Hartford Civic Center was buzzing with the anticipated return of outspoken forward Sean Avery from his NHL suspension. The Dallas Stars, who hold his contractual rights, assigned him to the New York Rangers minor league affiliate in Hartford last week.

The hope is for Avery to have a successful audition and be reacquired by his former team before the trading deadline in early March. If he shows the same energetic play on each line shift that was his trademark with the Rangers, then it’s a foregone conclusion that they will claim him off waivers from the Stars. Each team will be required to pay half of Avery’s salary for the remainder of the contract.

The Rangers need a boost in order to knock themselves out of their lethargic play that has plagued them all season. Their top players have not performed well, as Scott Gomez and Chris Drury have seemingly lost their respective games. Both were supposed to be team leaders, but instead they have played without much confidence.

The Ranger locker room is lacking a strong presence to guide them through this rough stretch of their season. Gone are the strong personalities (Avery-Jaromir Jagr-Brendan Shanahan) from last season who were able to take opponents out of their game plans. The Rangers need an agitator on the ice who can put the puck in the net occasionally.

This is a low-risk, high-reward opportunity for the Rangers, as Avery understands that this is his last chance to salvage a career in the NHL. He should be on his best behavior. He could become a positive distraction within his own locker room. Avery will be under the media spotlight that otherwise would be shined on the team’s struggling play.

Avery was suspended in December after making a crude remark about Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Pheneuf dating his former girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert. His inflammatory line came following a morning skate in Calgary: “It’s becoming a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds.” The NHL suspended him in December and ordered him to complete treatment in a league counseling program before returning back to the ice.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has no issues with Avery’s return to hockey. He commends him for complying with the league by serving his suspension and seeking counseling for his anger issues. Avery himself feels like he is a better person for having undergone treatment. But only time will tell if Avery has truly changed as a person.

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