The day that many New York Rangers fans have been waiting for has (finally) come: Sean Avery will make his on-ice debut against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night (7 p.m. EST, MSG+/NHL Network) after being a healthy scratch against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. Beyond that, though, the Blueshirts will be looking for their third consecutive victory against a squad that had their number last season, with three wins to just one loss.
But make no mistake about it, Avery's return -- after being cut when the season opened and then being recalled through re-entry waivers Tuesday -- is (rightfully or not) the spectacle of the night. With Wojtek Wolski re-straining his groin, the decision to get Avery in the lineup was a no-brainer; had he not been, the Madison Square Garden crowd could've made things ugly. Plus, beyond the spark he'll provide to the lineup and the crowd, Avery is the tough guy the Rangers need on the fourth line without Mike Rupp, after he's set to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery. The feisty winger is a great skater, underrated passer and, if he's playing smart, he has a great ability at getting underneath the opponents' skin. He just has to be careful not to go over the line. Taking stupid penalties gets you a nice seat next to coach John Tortorella on the bench.
On the other hand, the Canadiens started the year with seven losses in their first eight contents, but are now riding a four-game winning streak in which they've allowed five goals. The Habs don't really have a premiere go-to star, though they've got decent depth in their top-three forward lines, and they're not a physical bunch by any stretch of the imagination. Thus, New York needs to impose its blue-collar, physical identity to throw them off their game. WIthout the big-time forward, the Habs are 25th in the league in power-play efficiency (though the Rangers are No. 23).
To win this game, the recipe remains the same for New York: Continue to make smart decisions on defense. Receive offensive contributions from more than just the marquee names. And generate offense by not staying still and pressuring the Habs. New York gets in trouble when they allow the opponent to take the game to them.