Sean Avery's stint at "Connecticut's Crossroads" with the Hartford Wolf Pack lasted just 21 days, or half as long as the time Jesus spent in the desert, but he faced the Devils, won, and returned home. Avery and the Rangers face the New Jersey Devils on March 30th.
While with the Wolf Pack, from February 10 to March 3, Avery was tested by eight teams: the Manitoba Moose, the Bridgeport Tigers, the Lowell Devils, Portland Pirates, Manchester Monarchs, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Pirates, again.
Avery scored two goals, assisted on a game-winning goal, and earned eight penalty minutes. He tripped, cross-checked, elbowed, scored, and won six in a row on his way back into the NHL.
After losing their first two games with Avery in the line-up, playing his way back into game shape, the Wolf Pack went on a six game winning streak.
Their previous best this season was a three game winning streak.
Avery's first game was on Valentine's Day, when the Manitoba Moose beat the Wolf Pack 4-1. The Tigers shut out the Pack 1-0. And then Hartford started winning.
First they faced the Lowell Devils and beat them 5-2. It was the first victory in five tries against the Devils for the Wolf Pack. Next they beat the Portland Pirates, 2 to 1.
Right after breaking a stick, Avery assisted on the game-winning goal in overtime.
Next came a close game against the Manchester Monarchs that ended dramatically.
Manchester tied the game with only 6.5 seconds left in the period but the Wolf Pack scored with 5.2 seconds left, to take the game, 3-2. It was their third win in a row, equalling the team's longest winning streak of the season.
Their fourth win in a row was a 5-1 game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The Penguins got the first goal and Avery tied the game with his first goal as one of the Wolf Pack.
The Wolf Pack came back from a 3-0 third-period deficit to post their sixth straight victory, a 4-3 shootout win over the Portland Pirates. Avery got the goal that tied the game, 38 seconds after Hartford had made it 3-2. He also had three penalties.
That first victory for the Wolf Pack with Avery in the line-up was a turning point for the team. After beating the Devils, they were on a roll that did not stop when Avery returned to the NHL and the New York Rangers.
The Wolf Pack won one more game, beating the Worcester Sharks 3-1, but then they lost 1-0 in overtime against the same Manchester Monarchs that had lost to the Wolf Pack 3-2 a few games earlier.
Avery's goal was to play himself into game shape, keep out of trouble, and get back into the NHL with the Rangers.
In his first game in New York City, he played 14 minutes, on 19 shifts, was credited with three hits, he drew the penalty that led to the power play that scored the winning goal, and he distracted the New York Islanders so that the Rangers were able to beat them 4-2, even though the Rangers were a little shaky and the Islanders played their best game of the year.
Avery wandered in the desert for three months, or 92 days, from December 2, 2008, to March 5, 2009. During that time, he successfully completed a joint NHL/NHLPA's counselling program to deal with whatever issues were going on in his private life.
He also shot a Gap ad. In February, the Gap released its new ads for the upcoming season and Avery was included in a long list of celebrities who served as models. The ads will be in September and October issues of national magazines, as well as in Gap stores and on billboards.
When Avery arrived in Hartford, along with a media circus, he told reporters he was a changed man, but did not want to go into it. When he rejoined the Rangers, he told the media he was a milder Sean Avery, but added that even a mild Sean Avery is not THAT mild.
In his first game of the season with the Rangers, Avery was tested numerous times by the Islanders but he backed away from fights. Instead of retaliating, he drew a penalty, and that led to a big goal. In the final period of the game, with the Rangers already winning by a score of 4-2, he took a penalty for cross-checking.
The Islanders fans booed Avery all night and only applauded when he fell. However, most media reports said the Rangers welcomed him back and he helped them win the game.
Last season, Avery played in 57 games with the Rangers, scoring 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points, and had 154 penalty minutes. He ranked second on the team in penalty minutes, sixth in plus-minus rating (plus six) and tied for third in game-winning goals (4).
He had a career-high for game-winning goals.
Avery had eight multiple-point performances on the season, including three two-goal efforts. He also posted two “Gordie Howe Hat Tricks” during the season, the fourth and fifth of his career.
He scored four goals and had three assists for seven points in eight post-season games with the Rangers. He tied for second on the club in playoff goals (four), and ranked fifth on the team in playoff scoring with seven points.
In 402 NHL games with the Rangers, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, and Detroit Red Wings, Avery has scored 68 goals and earned 109 assists for 177 points. He had 1,144 penalty minutes.
In 2006-07, Avery established career-highs in games played (84), goals (18), assists (30), points (48), and shots on goal (249).
In 117 AHL games with Hartford, Cincinnati and Grand Rapids, he scored 30 goals and earned 29 assists for 59 points. He had 500 penalty minutes.