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.

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NHL looking for permanent presence in Europe

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hopes the season-opening doubleheaders in the Czech Republic and Sweden this weekend will usher an era of a more permanent presence in Europe for the league. He emphasized that the NHL is far from establishing expansion franchises in Europe and went on to say:

“We want to create a program where we’re coming back on a regular basis to satisfy and address the interest that we know is in our game here in Europe.”

The NHL also announced the re-introduction of “The World Cup of Hockey” to the platter of international competition sponsored by the league. The tournament was put on the shelf after the NHL began participating in the Winter Olympics. The plan is to stage this event every four years beginning in the fall of 2011. The NHL’s current international hockey commitment is playing in the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010, but further participation in Olympic competition is a negotiation point for the next collective bargaining agreement.

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