Rangers make move to bring back Avery

GREENBUGH, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers have officially placed Sean Avery on re-entry waivers, signaling the fan favorite will likely return to the team.

Assuming Avery clears re-entry waivers at noon Tuesday, he could be recalled in time for Thursday's game against the Anaheim Ducks.

Although another team could claim Avery and block his return to the Rangers, it is unlikely that will happen. The controversial winger went unclaimed when placed on waivers earlier this month and, in multiple recent interviews, expressed a reluctance to play anywhere else besides New York.

Rangers coach John Tortorella said Monday that the move was related to the knee injury of center Mike Rupp, who missed his third straight game Monday night when the Rangers beat the San Jose Sharks 5-2.

"Rupper has a lot to do with this. We're concerned about that," Tortorella said before the game. "This is the right decision. It's a hockey decision and it's the right decision now. It was the right hockey decision when we sent Sean back.

"Sean's biggest strength are his legs. He's a terrific skater and obviously a big part of his game is his forechecking ability, his play underneath the hashmark. We want him to play to his strengths and also work on the other parts of the game away from the puck."

The 31-year-old, who carries a $1.9 million salary cap charge, was waived on Oct. 4, three days before the Rangers opened their season in Sweden. He was then assigned to the Rangers' minor league affiliate -- the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League -- but was kept off the ice for almost two weeks while rehabbing a shoulder injury.

After his first practice with the Whale in Hartford on Oct. 19, Avery told ESPNNewYork.com that he didn't think he would ever wear a Rangers uniform again.

"Probably not," he said. "I doubt it."

Less than two weeks later, his fortune appears to have changed. The Rangers (4-3-3) have struggled with consistency and maintaining the blue-collar identity they cultivated last season, and could use the feisty forward's energy and forechecking ability.

Fans certainly think he can help the middling team find their way. One fan in Section 427 erected a huge banner that read: "AVERY 16 SEND TORTS TO THE WHALE" during the team's home opener at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. Chants of "We want Avery!" have also become a rallying cry over the past two games for Garden faithful displeased with the team's current state.

Avery played his first game of the season for the Whale on Friday, scoring an empty-net goal and earning a five-minute fighting major immediately afterward. In the Whale's 3-2 shootout win over the Worcester Sharks on Saturday, Avery scored the game-winner.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPNNewYork.com.