After being sent down in the final week of the season, only to be called back up for the regular season finale, rookie New York Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello will dress for Game 1 of the opening round of the 2011 NHL Playoffs against the Washington Capitals. Defenseman Matt Gilroy, who watched most of the final stretch of the regular season from the press box, will also dress.
Coach John Tortorella announced Sean Avery and Steve Eminger will be the healthy scratches.
Many in the media, myself included, believed that Avery could get the start over the Norwegian rookie due to the lack of the shootout in the post-season. Zuccarello has struggled with consistency lately, although he does bring more offensive upside than Avery.
Avery, though, is the type of player who could play a role in a series against a team like the Capitals. The 31-year-old is the type of player who can get under the Capitals' skin, as he did in 2009 against defenseman Mike Green.
The Rangers know they have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Avery. He has a tendency to take the bad penalty, and against a team like the Capitals, one penalty can be the difference between a win and loss. Tortorella may be hesitant to insert such a threat into the lineup.
Zuccarello played all of four minutes Saturday against the New Jersey Devils, although did tally an assist. He should skate alongside Chris Drury and enigmatic center Erik Christensen.
Newsday's Steve Zipay believes that Avery, Zuccarello and Christensen will be rotated throughout the series.