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When it was announced that New Line Cinema was producing a movie based on Sean Avery's adventures as a hockey player-turned-fashion magazine intern, we offered some casting advice. (Bradley Cooper continues to make too much sense; though we have yet to hear if Philip Seymour Hoffman took a meeting.)

We didn't offer any counsel on potential titles for the film, because hockey fans quickly used up every variation on "The [expletive deleted] Wears Prada" jokes. But The New York Times, in a Style section valentine to the New York Rangers pest over the weekend, let slip the working title for the romantic comedy:


Subtle. We're still holding out for either "Anger Management 2: How Is Bettman Supposed To Explain This To His Daughter?" or a grand Hollywood musical called "Sloppy Second Ave.," that features Avery dancing with a chorus line of Kim Bauer lookalikes ...

Burgeoning cinematic inspirations aside, it's a rather important night for the Rangers: 1-2-1 in their last four, just two points up on the ninth-place Florida Panthers and playing the struggling New Jersey Devils on national television (TSN) and on Versus.

Which of course means it's a rather noteworthy night for Avery, as he'll face Martin Brodeur for the first time in his second stint with the Rangers, despite already having seen him once this season with the Dallas Stars. The hostilities between the two, which reached their apex in last year's playoffs, are still boiling; Avery isn't speaking to the media prior to the game, and Brodeur is dodging questions about his nemesis.

The question used to be, "What will Sean Avery do next?" in his rivalry with the Devils. But in this Sean 2.0 world, is the question now whether the post-therapy Avery will do anything outlandish at all against New Jersey?

The Fashion and Style section (where else, right?) story on Avery was titled "The Demon on His Shoulder," which is terrifically foreboding headline but misrepresentative of Avery's actual quote in the piece:

"It's like that little devil on your shoulder," Mr. Avery said Monday during an autograph signing event. "I have to keep him under control."

While the words conjure images of Bugs Bunny having an schizophrenic debate about hitting Elmer Fudd over the head with a mallet, they also literally evoke Avery's history with the Devils as a chief agitator, as the devilish side of Avery has made an appearance with Jersey on the ice than against perhaps any other team.

For Rangers media like Larry Brooks of the NY Post, this adds a delicious storyline to an already vital game for both teams:

This, as always, is the night to keep your eyes on Avery, who has been Mr. Mxyzptlk to Brodeur's Superman from the moment he joined the Battle of the Hudson on Feb. 6, 2007 and turned it into his own comic strip.

OK, let's stop right there. We're not in the business of praising Larry Brooks at every turn, but props for the Mr. Mxyzptlk reference. Someone with pedestrian knowledge of the DC Universe would have gone Lex Luthor, which would be incorrect; Avery isn't a criminal mastermind, he's a nasty little prankster from the 5th Dimension. So kudos, fellow nerd. We continue with Brooks:

There will be serious business conducted at the Garden tonight, you bet there will be with the Rangers now hanging on for dear life in the wake of a 1-2-1 backslide that has thrown the proposition of a fourth straight trip to the playoffs into serious doubt.

But to believe that Avery-Brodeur is somehow just a sideshow is missing the point, which, quite simply, is that Avery the Ranger is as singularly responsible for tilting the rivalry Manhattan's way as anyone since Mark Messier.

In fact, as Brooks points out, "the Rangers will attempt to extend their record against the Devils to 12-2-3."

That said, Devils fans like John Fischer of In Lou We Trust don't buy that Avery deserves to dominate the narrative for tonight's game:

... Please ignore the last three games between the two teams because SEAN AVERY is a Ranger again so everything is different now. We can't go against the narrative after all. It's established.

However, as indicated by the recent losses to Atlanta and Pittsburgh, Avery hasn't been, shall we say, useful to the Rangers recently. Only one assist in both games and not much else to write home about off the boxscore.  Yet, he commands attention.  Blueshirt Banter even blamed the league for a conspiracy against Avery, saying that officials are too focused on him. Seriously.  He took one (1) goalie interference call against Atlanta and no (0) minors against Pittsburgh.  If we're going on calls, there's more evidence that there's a conspiracy against Bobby Holik! It can't be that, you know, they're doing stupid things on the ice.  Still, it's Sean Avery, so to some he commands this, um, attention?

The reality is probably somewhere in between these extremes. No, Avery isn't a bigger story than the Rangers fighting for their playoff lives against a Devils team that has suddenly plummeted from glamour pick in the East to a struggling hockey club.

But there's also no dismissing that fact that Avery has been a vital part of the Rangers' late-season momentum (such as a it is), and that his past history with the Devils is a legitimate angle to play. Not only with Brodeur, but back in October when he and Jersey tough guy David Clarkson exchanged pleasantries. He is, especially in a Rangers uniform against the Devils, a game-changer -- on the ice and in the mind. Why else would Brodeur downplay it?

So what to expect from Avery? Depends on whether you think his anger management rehab was legit, and we're seeing a calmer more gentler Sean.

From the NY Times, some insight into his current mindset:

On Monday, as Mr. Avery was autographing pucks and photographs at a memorabilia shop on the Upper West Side, he said that he now does breathing exercises whenever he gets upset.

He showed off a tattoo he had gotten after his time at the Canyon, a rehabilitation center in Malibu, Calif. It is on the inside of his right arm, a quotation from a Radiohead song: "You used to be alright, what happened?"

"The way I think about it is, I used to be all right and now I am trying to be better than all right to people and to my teammates and to myself," Mr. Avery said.

Being a good teammate means not putting your team in a uncomfortable position because of poor personal choices (see: seconds, sloppy). Rangers Coach John Tortorella spoke to the NY Daily News about the delicate balance between Avery the pest and Avery the player:

Tortorella, meanwhile, said that in the scope of this game, this is all nonsense for Avery to avoid - but also that Avery needs to "be himself," because that's when he's most effective. So what's a pest to do?

"I think Sean is smart enough to understand what this game means to us," Tortorella said yesterday. "They're looking to get (a higher playoff seed), and we're trying to get in - that overrides everything. ... Worrying about the other stuff, and all the shenanigans that go on, it can't happen. We have to play."

The game is bigger than any two players. But it's impossible to ignore this kind of history between two players in the game (H/T NY Rangers Blog):

H/T to Wayne from Tuskegee for the movie tip.

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