Shocker: Rangers scratch Sean Avery for tonight's game

avery.jpgI never really understood why the New York Rangers picked up Sean
Avery last season. I understand the thought process and the reasons
behind it; Avery could be had for half of his salary and the team and
fans needed him at the time.

But in the time where it was known
that the Rangers eventually would nab Avery and the time they actually
did, there was a coaching change and John Tortorella took over behind
the bench for New York. How would such a no-nonsense coach put up with a
player like Avery? Perhaps he would be the one to finally harness his
ability and make him into more than just an annoying player who
sometimes scores.

That hasn’t been the case. In fact, Tortorella
has done everything he can this season to suppress Avery and his
shenanigans. Well, everything except scratch him.

Until now. Sean
Avery will be a healthy scratch tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers
,
another team that is in desperation mode as they both fight for a
playoff spot.

“We’ve asked him for a while now for
more engagement and honestly, we
just haven’t seen it,” Tortorella said following the morning skate in
preparation for tonight’s match here against the Thrashers. “[That’s in]
all facets.”

“Whenever I get my next opportunity that’s what I’m
going to have to
do,” said Avery, who when then asked what exactly he meant, responded,
“I’m going to keep that to myself.”

I’m of two sides
on this one. If the Rangers and John Tortorella never intended to
embrace Avery and everything he brings to the table then they never
should have picked him up. It’s been a battle every since and neither
side has seemed to be able to agree on exactly what approach they want
Avery to take.

However, Avery is a wildly inconsistent player and
that is maddening to a coach. He has all the ability to be a dangerous
player each night, yet is driven by emotion and self-motivation. Perhaps
the coach is doing everything he can to bring out that emotion each and
every game and he’s just not seeing as much as he would like. Whatever
the case, it’s an ugly situation that is playing itself out just as the
Rangers are fighting for a playoff spot.

Personally, I love seeing
Avery’s hand held to the fire like this. I know there are some who
think he’s being misused by the Rangers’ coach, but for a player who is
as self-serving as he is there has to be a reality check at some point.
It seems being released by the Stars last season helped a bit in
bringing him down to earth, but obviously the coach doesn’t feel it’s
been far enough.

Should make for an interested finish to the
season, at least.

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    NHL ON NBCSN: Lightning, Blues square off in battle of NHL’s best

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    NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Wednesday night, as the St. Louis Blues host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 8 p.m. ET. You can stream the game by clicking here.

    The Lightning and Blue have consistently been two of the best teams in the NHL since opening night.

    A healthy Tampa side has scored at will with a league-best 110 goals through 29 games and the Blues have been powered by Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn and the now-injured Jordan Schwartz. Both teams have the fire power, but they also have played some very stingy defense, thanks to goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy and Jake Allen.

    The Blues enter Tuesday night’s game banged up and missing Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo, who was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, so depth will be tested. Schenn’s production may also be affected as Schwartz has assisted on half of his 16 goals. And as Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic pointed out this morning, St. Louis averaged 3 goals per game with Schwartz and 2.36 goals when he wasn’t in the lineup.

    [WATCH LIGHTNING-BLUES LIVE ON NBCSN]

    Tampa hits the road following an undefeated four-game homestand. Their last road trip away from Amalie Arena ended with a 1-3-0 record and only seven total goals scored. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper won’t have last change to get his preferred matchups on the ice, so will he find himself splitting up Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos at times to spread out the offensive threat?

    “We’ve done what we had to at home,” Cooper said via the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we have to do it on the road, and it’s much tougher with all the travel we have to do, especially where we are here. So, we have to learn from what we did on the road before, what we have to do to prepare, but this is a good way to jump-start that.”

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Blue Jackets’ Cam Atkinson hits ‘reset button’ after heathy scratch

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    The reset button has been hit and Cam Atkinson will return to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ lineup Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

    Atkinson, who has six goals and nine points in 25 games this season, was made a healthy scratch on Saturday, three weeks after signing a seven-year, $40.25 million extension. John Tortorella’s decision to sit the forward who scored 35 goals last season wasn’t a hard one for the head coach, mainly because the player forced the issue.

    “This isn’t to kick a player,” Tortorella said on Monday. “Cam Atkinson is a very important player, and especially for this coach. He’s in every situation, and that’s what I think of him as a player.”

    It wasn’t an easy past couple of days for Atkinson. An embarrassing scratch not long after inking a big extension wasn’t an ideal way to show off his worth to the franchise. But on Sunday he received a text from Martin St. Louis, an off-season Connecticut golf buddy and someone who knows pretty well how Tortorella operates. For more than a half hour the former Tampa Bay Lightning star reminded the 28-year-old that he’s a good player and that the franchise has an incredible amount of confidence in him, as displayed by the contract they just handed him.

    [Blue Jackets bet big on Cam Atkinson]

    Since Saturday’s scratch, Atkinson had stayed on the ice after skates working on his shot and getting extra touches with the puck to try and restore his confidence. There was time spent watching video, too. And just as important, there was plenty of communication with Tortorella.

    “It’s one of those things where once you go down that dark alley, one thing leads to another and it’s hard to get out of it,” Atkinson said. “It’s not so much pointing the fingers, but sometimes you tend to blame your teammates or linemates and that’s something you can’t do. It’s something I’ve tried not to do… Being a healthy scratch was probably the best thing for me.”

    There’s more than one Blue Jackets player struggling at the moment, which Tortorella admits is a failure on his part to find a way to get them going again. To the head coach, scratching a player isn’t a form of punishment, it’s a way to help.

    Atkinson has hit the 20-goal mark in each of the last four seasons, so it’s not like he’s a lost cause or being crushed under the weight of his extension. Now, after a night in the press box, he knows he needs to respond.

    “Obviously, you never want to be a healthy scratch, but it gives you a chance to reassess and hit the reset button, realize where you are at that point in time in the season and what you need to do to get better,” Atkinson said.

    “It’s a wake-up call. I take full responsibility. I know I need to be way better, and I will be.”

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    PHT Morning Skate: Cooper’s reinvention; Pietrangelo on IR

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    • How Jon Cooper helped reinvent himself and bring the Tampa Bay Lightning back to elite status. [Tampa Bay Times]

    • Days after losing Jaden Schwartz for six weeks, the St. Louis Blues placed Alex Pietrangelo on injured reserved with a lower-body injury. The good news is that he’s expected back by early next week. [Blues]

    • Six skaters on Russia’s Sochi Olympic women’s hockey team — including its captain and leading points scorer — were banned from the Olympics for life by the IOC. [NBC Olympics]

    Drew Doughty on the Los Angeles Kings doubters: “Yeah, you know, obviously, people are still going to doubt us. There’s always going to be people who don’t believe in the success we’re having, but we’re not too worried about those other people.” [LA Daily Times]

    • The New York Islanders unveiled their plans to develop land by Belmont Park race track, which includes an 18,000-seat arena. Bidding against MLS side NYCFC, it’s unknown when the winner will be announced. [Islanders Insight]

    • How the returns of Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg will affect the rest of the Anaheim Ducks’ lineup. [OC Register]

    • Don’t trade Erik Karlsson. No, really. Just don’t do it. [Silver Seven Sens]

    • Canada’s World Junior entry got a big boost on Monday when the Montreal Canadiens announced they will be loaning the defenseman to the national team. [Canadiens]

    • What to make of these Columbus Blue Jackets? [The Cannon]

    • The New Jersey Devils have made the most out of having some very hard practices. [NJ.com]

    • So you wanna rebuild the Chicago Blackhawks? Well, about that… [Second City Hockey]

    • It’s not been the greatest season in Philadelphia, but Sean Couturier is certainly shining. [TSN]

    • What do the Dallas Stars need to do to find more success on the road? [Defending Big D]

    • Are smelling salts actually dangerous for players? [The Star]

    • Would a transatlantic hockey league be a successful one? [British Ice Hockey]

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Ducks’ Perry being evaluated at hospital for lower body injury

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    The injury woes for the Anaheim Ducks continued on Monday night.

    On the same night they got Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg back in the lineup, they lost forward Corey Perry to some sort of a lower body injury.

    Perry exited the game after playing just 3:49 in the first period.

    After the game Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said that Perry is being evaluated at a local hospital for the injury and that there was no other update at this time.

    According to Ducks beat writer Eric Stephens of the OC Register Perry did not suffer a skate cut.

    In 31 games this season Perry has scored six goals to go with 16 assists for the Ducks. The Ducks have been absolutely crushed by injuries this season, a development that has no doubt played a major role in their slow start.

    The Ducks were 3-2 winners on Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.