Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Could Sean Avery Be A Healthy Scratch In The Near Future?

Al Bello/Getty Images
New York Rangers coach John Tortorella refusing to commit to a lineup the day before a game is nothing new, but does it speak to potential changes in the near future?  The assumption for many was that once Erik Christensen was the healthy scratch on Sunday the Rangers had their forward lineup for the rest of the season.  That is certainly possible, but to this point I am not convinced that is the case.  In fact, I believe he will be back in the lineup pretty soon and a fan favorite, Sean Avery, might be the one who goes out in his place.
The reason given for Christensen taking a seat against Philadelphia was about his toughness against that kind of team, which is certainly a valid criticism of his game.  The interesting lineup questions will come when the Rangers play teams that are not as physical and the team needs to incorporate more skill.  Christensen frustrates like few others because he possesses elite skill that should make him a top six forward, but absolutely no consistency to his play.  On the season he has been disappointing with just 9 goals and 20 points in 50 games, but he does have three goals and three assists in the last five games.  The combination of his recent hot play, his prior chemistry with Marian Gaborik and his shootout abilities down the stretch in a tight playoff race make him an option John Tortorella is likely to go back to.
If Christensen is to go back into the lineup, someone must come out and barring any other injuries the most likely candidate is Sean Avery.  I am not arguing that Avery should come out of the lineup for Christensen, just that it is likely to happen.  Avery has been excellent this year in playing his role and of late has picked up his threat level in terms of scoring goals, but nothing he has done has translated to him getting more minutes.  Only once in the last seven games has Avery even hit the 10 minute mark for ice time in a game. The minutes certainly play a role in his point production, but Avery has only accounted for one goal and three assists in his last 17 games.
In practice the past few days the lines have been consistent:
With those being the lines it only furthers the belief that if Christensen is to come back in the lineup and there are no injuries it would be a clean swap of him and Avery.  The line of Avery, Prospal, Gaborik failed to generate much of anything on Sunday, other than the disallowed goal, so that also factors in when considering where a change would be made as the other three lines are playing well together.  I do not see that happening tonight against a physical team like Anaheim, but it could happen much sooner than many fans would like.
I know a lot of the comments will be against the move, and I appreciate that, but I am more interested in whether you think it will happen, so leave that as well. Thanks.