Sean Avery Incidents Before Sloppy Seconds
The traveling circus, also known as the New York Rangers hockey club, stops by the Sommet Center Thursday at 7 p.m. for a bit of shinny with the Nashville Predators.
Both teams are in a battle for their lives in their respective conference playoff races. After Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Capitals the Predators are in eighth place in the West with 71 points. The Rangers are also coming off a loss on Monday at Carolina and sit outside the Eastern playoff picture in ninth place with 76 points.
The Rangers have had a topsy turvy season with few moments of peace or tranquility. They opened the season in Europe sweeping the hapless Tampa Bay Lightning in two games and finished the month of October with a 10-2-1 record before settling into the depths of mediocrity.
After a midseason swoon, the Rangers fired mild mannered Tom Renney, who had led the team for the last five years. He was replaced by the former Stanley Cup winning coach John Tortorella in hopes of stemming the downhill slide. The Rangers are 3-2-1 since the change with the three wins coming consecutively prior to Monday’s loss.
The Rangers added to their circus-like atmosphere by reacquiring the controversial Sean Avery prior to last week’s trade deadline. Tortorella, while working as a TV analyst for TSN in Canada, had been openly critical of Avery’s history of antics on and off the ice so it is unclear how chummy the two are now that they are in the same locker room together.
The Rangers also traded for center Nik Antropov, who the Predators were also allegedly interested in obtaining, and defensemen Derek Morris in attempts to strengthen the team for a playoff run.
Individually, Ranger Henrik Lundqvist will be attempting to do something no other goalie has ever done. He currently has 29 wins this year following win totals of 30, 37, and 37 the last three years. No goalie has ever reached the 30 win plateau in their first four years in the NHL, so a win versus the Preds would break new territory for Lundqvist.
The Predators are coming off Tuesday’s overtime loss against Washington where the 2-1 score was much closer than the contest was on the ice. Dan Ellis, subbing for the flu-ridden Pekka Rinne, managed to hold off 42 of 44 Caps official shots as Washington clearly outskated the Preds for the last two periods of the game.
There was a real playoff feel to Tuesday’s battle that included three heavyweight quality fights including two by Wade Belak. Tempers will probably flair with the Rangers as both teams feature annoying players and others willing to drop the gloves including New York’s Colton Orr, who has already been involved in 15 fights.
Pekka Rinne is expected to return in goal for the Predators against the Blue Shirts. Captain Jason Arnott’s availability is not quite as clear as he was listed as day to day after Tuesday’s game when he left early for undisclosed reasons.
After the game the Predators will leave for a tough west coast road trip where they will play four games in six nights. Their itinerary includes Saturday in Phoenix, and Monday in Los Angeles before back to back games Wednesday and Thursday against Anaheim and San Jose. With fifteen games left, every game is critical as the Preds will need at least ten wins to secure a playoff berth.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and the Columbia Daily Herald