Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 11/14/11

NEW YORK - JANUARY 25: Sean Avery #16 of the New York Rangers skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against on January 25, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Penguins defeated the Rangers 4-2. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Last week, when forward Sean Avery had just been recalled from the Connecticut Whale of the AHL, I stressed that it would be crucial for Sean to take it easy and do the simple things out on the ice in his first few games in the NHL this season. After all, head coach John Tortorella did say there were better players on this team than Avery last month, so he couldn't afford to make any costly mistakes out there and prove Torts' theory to be correct right away. 

In games one through three for Sean this season, he did exactly what I said he should. He made the most of his ice time, which wasn't very much at all, and played a hard-nosed game, leaving everything on the ice on every shift. He got pucks to the net, he forechecked, he defended and he played physical. Really, Tortorella couldn't have asked anything more of the widely known pest. 

Quite honestly, I think his smartest move to that point was when he challenged Zenon Konopka to a fight after Konopka had made some comments about Avery's teammates prior to their match in Ottawa last week. I didn't have much of a problem with what Konopka said, because he was right, but the Rangers coaching staff did, as did the players. Avery then took it upon himself to defend the team and fight Konopka, and I think that right there was when he proved to everyone that he is here for the Rangers, not himself. 

It was in game four, however, which took place this past Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes, that we saw Sean Avery do a little more than in his first three games. Right off the bat he scored a very pretty goal to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead, and from there he played a solid game all around. Afterwards he said that what he did on that night was exactly how he needs to play on a game-to-game basis, and he is absolutely right. 

Tortorella, shockingly, even acknowledged Avery's efforts after the game...

"Sean played better. You could see right away his legs were going. He was pressuring the puck." - Torts to Andrew Gross

With that, Sean Avery is now ready to take the next step in the slow but sure process of re-securing a spot in the lineup here in New York. Last week, between the fight and the goal, Sean proved that he has a role on this team that no else could fill. What do I mean by that? Well, just look at his competition. Erik Christensen can score a pretty goal here and there, but he could and would never stick up for a teammate. Meanwhile, Mike Rupp will drop the mitts, but you won't see him roofing shots on breakaways anytime soon. 

It is my belief that the spot is there for Avery's taking right now, because the coach is admittingly liking what he's seen from Sean, and that's evident just by the fact that he gave him over ten minutes of ice time last game, as opposed to the five or four he saw in the previous three. Avery is ready to take that next step and be the impact player he once was - he just has to do it consistently. 

  

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