With Sean Avery returning to the lineup for tomorrow’s game against Anaheim (one which I will be attending), the question surrounding his return isn’t about Avery himself, but about who will sit when he does return. Avery has been rotating on the fourth line with Brian Boyle, Aaron Voros, and Donald Brashear in practice, but that doesn’t mean he will be playing on the fourth line.
John Tortorella has shown reluctance to break up the top two lines, especially with the chemistry the line of Prospal-Dubinsky-Gaborik has been showing since the season started. Also, with the line of Lisin-Anisimov-Kotalik finally getting on the board the other night against the Caps, it is unlikely that Tortorella would want to mess with that just yet.
Avery slots in as a top-nine wing, where the Rangers actually have a lot of depth. It is possible that the Rangers scratch Enver Lisin, who has had trouble finding his game away from the puck. But Avery doesn’t have the skill or the speed with the puck that Lisin has. This is an interesting problem the Rangers have right now, but it’s a good problem to have. When was the last time the Rangers actually had to think about which player to scratch when a player returned from injury?
An interesting way they can solve this problem is by simply playing Avery on the fourth line. Not because he should be on the fourth line, but to ease him back from his injury. This allows the Rangers to have one more game to evaluate who should be the scratch from the lineup. Reading between the lines, it gives Enver Lisin one more game to prove to the coaching staff that he belongs in the lineup.