Sean Avery practices but won't play Thursday

New York Rangers left wing Sean Avery (16)

New York Rangers left wing Sean Avery (16) reacts after taking a shot on goal against the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden. (Jan. 5, 2011) (Credit: Newsday / Christopher Pasatieri)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The season debut of Sean Avery at Madison Square Garden is on hold.

Avery, the polarizing winger who was recalled from the AHL after clearing waivers Tuesday, won't be in the lineup Thursday night when the Rangers host the Anaheim Ducks because he hasn't practiced enough -- and because coach John Tortorella is reluctant to change things after a win.

True to form, Tortorella will use the same lineup deployed in the 5-2 win over the Sharks on Monday, although he did not name his goaltender. The Rangers (4-3-3) host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday and the Winnipeg Jets Sunday to end a six-game homestand, and it is conceivable that Avery will dress for one of those games.

"This is the same situation as any other player being brought up," Tortorella said. "I think that's what's fair to Sean. He hasn't practiced a whole bunch here and we'll run it like we always do."

Tortorella, who demoted Avery a month ago and whose relationship with the speedy but controversial forward hasn't been a Hallmark moment, said there were no fences to mend.

"I know there's people, as far as fans and media, they have their favorite players and they have players they want to grind on," Tortorella said. "It doesn't matter either way to me; it's not going to change my decision-making. You can't run a business that way."

Avery calmly accepted his new, if delayed, opportunity. "I was happy to have a good practice. I hadn't skated, because of waivers, for a couple days," he said. "And the guys played pretty good last game and had a big win, so really, I wouldn't change the lineup."

Henrik Lundqvist, surveying the larger-than-usual media contingent, understood that this minor-league call-up is different. "It brings more attention to it when it's Sean Avery," Lundqvist said of his close friend and co-investor in a Soho restaurant. "It feels more normal [when Avery is here]. I'm used to seeing him the past few years."

Avery, who played just two games in the AHL, scoring an empty-net goal and a shootout goal, declined to say he was surprised by the quick return to the NHL, despite saying last month that he doubted he would be back in New York.

"I've had a lot of things happen to me over my career," he said. "I never rule anything out as far as decisions that are out of your control; all you can do is work hard and stay positive . . . I'm not looking back and gauging my surprise level."

Asked if he could rationalize the events of the past month, he grinned and told a reporter: "I don't think you could understand my way of rationalizing anything . . . I'm excited to play in the new building. I love every game I've ever played for this team. I just want to play as hard as I possibly can. I'll bring whatever is going to be asked of me at this point . . . I'm not changing anything."

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