Sean Avery waived again

PHILADELPHIA -- Subtract one fan favorite from the NHL's Winter Classic festivities.

The New York Rangers have waived controversial winger Sean Avery for the second time this season.

The 31-year-old Avery, who was waived in October during the preseason, has been a scratch for nine straight games. He has three goals in 15 games this season, but averaged only 7 minutes, 1 second in ice time before his most recent exile.

Avery made his season debut Nov. 5 against Montreal after spending a month with the team's AHL affiliate in Hartford, Conn., and being summoned back to the Rangers on re-entry waivers.

Avery cleared waivers on Saturday, as he did the first time.

Although the Rangers have not made other immediate roster moves, the decision to place Avery on waivers is a good indication that they have other players close to returning. Wojtek Wolski is recovering from his sports hernia surgery in November, and Marc Staal is working on his conditioning in anticipation of his season debut.

Staal, a 24-year-old defenseman, has yet to play this season because of post-concussions symptoms stemming from a hit from his older brother, Eric, in February.

Avery's demotion comes as no surprise, given his lack of playing time the past three weeks. Avery and Erik Christensen, the Rangers' skilled-yet-inconsistent center, have been the odd men out as the Rangers made their way to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

"We're getting healthier," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "This team is getting healthier, so it comes down to a numbers game."

The move means Avery will not play in the Winter Classic on Jan. 2 at Philadelphia.

"Sean's a good friend," Brandon Prust said. "It's sad to see him go, but those are decisions that are out of our hands. Obviously we hope he does well and he's going to keep working hard and try to get back up here."

Once assigned to the AHL's Connecticut Whale, the notorious agitator was sidelined for weeks while rehabbing a shoulder injury suffered in training camp. Although Avery told ESPNNewYork.com during his assignment that he doubted he'd ever play again for the Rangers, it took only two games until a knee injury to Rangers forward Mike Rupp triggered his recall.

Avery carries a salary-cap hit of $1.9 million, which would be pro-rated for the remainder of the season should a team claim him off waivers. If he is placed and then claimed on re-entry waivers, the Rangers would be on the hook for roughly $1 million of his salary.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPNNewYork.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.