Long day coming up on Long Island, as I drive and Rangers bus out there and have a game-day skate at 11.
Might sneak away for a jaunt on the boardwalk in my old nabe in Long Beach, weather permitting, this afternoon...
Here's my piece on Sean Avery and the Isles from today's paper, and below, a story that displays the softer side of John Tortorella, a side that the New York press corps agrees is starting to re-emerge this season. Not sure if someone else posted this last week, but worth a read. Thanks to loyal Blue Notes follower Edward Smith for conveying it. Will be in touch from Uniondale round noon with starters, scratches and quotes
Whenever irritant Sean Avery meets the Islanders, there’s entertainment value, some of it more suited to adults.
James Wisniewski’s vulgar gesture toward the chirping Avery in the last game---a 6-4 Rangers loss at Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 11---resulted in a two-game suspension for the Islanders defenseman.
From trash-talking and shoving matches with Rick DiPietro to allegedly tossing profanities at Ice Girls to scraps with players such as Bruno Gervais to taunting GM Garth Snow in the hallway following an exhibition game in September, 2007, Avery has been a noticeable, if not notable, figure in the cross-river rivalry.
Tonight, when the Rangers visit Uniondale for the second time this season, Avery will start in a prominent role: On the Blueshirts’ top line with Marian Gaborik and Erik Christensen.
Avery, 30, who has been on the fourth line for a couple weeks, has just one goal and nine assists, but has displayed his old verve recently. As a result, he has become the latest experiment as the No. 1 left wing, following tryouts from Alex Frolov, Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko.
“We’ll start that way,” said coach John Tortorella, who believes Avery’s speed and forechecking could be a suitable fit. “Sean’s played well. Two of the last three games, he’s been effective.” His impact has been with energy and aggressiveness, drawing penalties and banging. Avery had four hits and a fight with Tyler Kennedy in the 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh, took on Jordin Tootoo in the gritty 2-1 victory in Nashville, and in Florida, fired a low hard shot that led to a rebound goal for Derek Stepan.
“Skating-wise, I’ve felt well the last week or so. I just want to make sure my feet are moving. The most important thing is to get in on the forecheck.” Playing with Gaborik, he said, is “an opportunity to have one of the most elite goal scorers on your line. Now there’s pressure to make a play and get him the puck. It’s kind of like a double-edged sword.”
Avery claimed that he was unaware of the Islanders’ recent struggles, and when told about their coaching change, he said “Seriously?” and dismissed the rivalry. “It’s more a focus on our game. We know what our identity is, it seemed to solidify in the last month. We know the level of play we have to bring.”
The Rangers (14-11-1 and 4-2-0 in the last six) “have to get by” the Islanders’ intensity in the first seven or eight minutes and try to dictate play, Tortorella said. He didn’t know coach Jack Capuano's strategy, but “When Scotty (Gordon) was there, he would throw his bangers and crashers out there right away.” That could be another reason for Avery’s ascension, however temporary.