Sean Avery wasn't among the 12 (or 13) best forwards on the New York Rangers' depth chart when the season started, according to coach John Tortorella, so he was subsequently demoted to the American Hockey League's Connecticut Whale. Nine games into the season and with the team trudging through a 3-3-3 record, however, it looks like that assessment has changed and the fan favorite will be back in the NHL.
The New York Post, along with a number of other outlets, has confirmed that the 31-year-old Avery will be put on re-entry waivers by New York on Monday. The NHL's 29 other teams will have 24 hours to put in a claim, but the likelihood of that happening is "minimal," according to The Sporting News' Jesse Spector, though it cannot be ruled out. There's been no word as to whether this was a Glen Sather-recommended move -- as he is an Avery supporter -- or one Tortorella fully agreed to.
As a result of the waivers process, Avery will miss the Rangers' game against the San Jose Sharks on Monday, but he will be eligible to play Thursday when the Rangers play the Anaheim Ducks. His inclusion in the lineup will have to be broached if he clears, but the player kept over him on the roster, Erik Christensen, has played less than 10 minutes in every game, tallying just two shots on goal. He's been ineffective/invisible and often has been benched in the third period, and one might wonder if this is close to his last straw with the club.
The Rangers have struggled to find their identity and have lacked consistent energy in the early going. Tortorella's group hasn't forechecked enough, hasn't played gritty enough and has been skate-walking through the first few weeks of the year. Avery provides relentless energy and the team is obviously looking for some type of spark -- even if he's just on the fourth line. Plus, with Mike Rupp's cranky left knee, Avery is at least a known (and effective) commodity to throw into the lineup, instead of relying on the the Kris Newbury's of the world. Avery also has underrated skating and passing ability to be moved up into other lines, if the situation calls for it.
The Agitator has played in two games for the Whale after spending about two weeks rehabbing a shoulder injury. He has an empty-net goal and a shootout winner, along with a fighting major.