NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 14: Ladislav Smid #5 of the Edmonton Oilers is throws to the ice by Sean Avery #16 of the New York Rangers after Smid said something to Avery regarding a hard check Avery threw during the third period of a hockey game at Madison Square Garden on November 14 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
The long-awaited return of Sean Avery became official yesterday, when John Tortorella confirmed Avery would be playing in tonight's contest against the Montreal Canadiens.
Personally, I was one of the people who didn't believe the New York Rangers got off to a slow start this year because they were missing Avery. The team simply needed time to gel and get back into a normal schedule where they weren't traveling from country to country to play a few hockey games. I agreed with Tortorella, that there were better players on the team then Avery, and I also agreed that Erik Christensen brought more to the table offensively.
But I never denied that Avery plays a special role for the New York Rangers (something we're going to get a first-hand look at it tonight), and that he needed to be called back up once Mike Rupp got injured. The atmosphere at Madison Square Garden is going to be insanity, and most of it is because of Avery's return.
Join me after the jump for more.
The big question that remains is what type of a role will we see from Avery tonight. Remember that this is Avery's first NHL game of the season, so anyone expecting him to play a major role will probably be disappointed. But that doesn't mean the agitator won't see around 10 minutes of ice time tonight, it's just a matter of what he does with that ice time that will determine how well he is playing.
Which brings us to Avery's risk/reward factor.
When Avery is on his game he's by far and away the best player in the NHL at getting other teams off their games. But when other teams don't bite, Avery sometimes gets himself in trouble by crossing the line to try to draw penalties. For Avery, the difficulty tonight will be trying to find a happy medium. He's going to want to go out and play his game to prove he belongs with the team, but he also needs to be wary of crossing that line and hurting the Rangers.
In the end, some of this will have to do with where Tortorella decides to deploy Avery, and how much ice time he gives him. Then it's up to Avery to see what he can do with it.
Either way, tonight should be fun to watch.