2007-02-09 / Sports

Rangers Need Avery To Bodycheck Opponents For Playoff Run

By Joe McDonaldSports Columnist

By Joe McDonaldSports Columnist

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The spotlight of the big city is known to make or break a player.

Some players can be lifted to the next level; while others wilt in the hot rays. New Ranger Sean Avery - acquired on Monday for Jason Ward - is hoping for the former to occur.

"Certainly I have a connection with [Brendan Shanahan] him," Avery said before his first game as a Blueshirt on Tuesday. "We played together in Detroit. We have our core group of fans in LA, but I wanted to be in an environment where there is a pressure there to win and be held accountable on a certain level.

"Plus it's New York, where else would you want to play and live?"

With a Hollywood starlet - actress Elisha Cuthbert - as his girl, the forward knows about living in the spotlight, so the Rangers hope the transition will be an easy one. Yet, Avery comes to the Rangers with a reputation on and off the ice. As a member of the Los Angeles Kings, he was known as a pest and an agitator, but also had the tendency to open his mouth at the wrong times. With his move to New York, the 26 year-old hopes his reputation will improve as well.

"I think a lot of it I brought upon myself in the past," he said about his past transgressions. "I want to be around a winning environment. I want to win and I am an emotional guy. In the past I have said things with the wrong people around and that's beyond me at this point. I really want to win and be in a place I can win." He said the main problem was maturity, which caused him to speak his mind when a closed mouth was warranted. The forward though feels playing in New York will be different.

Said Avery: "Playing at a young age, it took a while to get my bearings and I think my eagerness and my competitiveness got to the point where it got out of hand. Now I am at the point where I know who to say things to and who to not. It's going to be fun. I don't think there's a better place in the league to play."

With both Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan leading the Blueshirts, Avery has the veteran leadership that thinks before it speaks. And maybe, that's why Avery made the Rangers his number one choice if he was going to be traded.

"[The Rangers] was the game we would watch [in LA] before our game, so I have seen this team play for a couple of months," he said. "I am excited to play with Shanny and Jags is the best player on the world. This team can do a lot of damage, especially with Jags and [Martin Straka]. It will be a tough team to beat."

With the Rangers struggling for a playoff spot, they will need their new forward to score the occasional goal. He said he usually scores by accident, but 10 goals and 19 assists, puts him sixth on the team in scoring. Avery is also fifth in the league in penalty minutes, but coach Tom Renney doesn't think that will be a concern.

"It depends on what kind of penalties because you were lazy and show lack of judgment, then [it's a problem]," Renney said. "At the same time, if they are tough penalties, we can live with that. My guess, at the end of the day, Sean Avery will be a bigger penalty killer than be in the penalty box."

According to Avery, that's the type of player he is, which is why he think New York will be a fit.

"I am just going to come in and play my game I have been playing all year and work hard," Avery said. "I will bring a little bit of emotion. I think hockey fans like what I bring to the table and I will just try and fit in with the guys like I am not even there."

And if he does, the team will be very happy with the trade.

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