Sean Avery was expected to provide the edge the Dallas Stars needed to reach the Stanley Cup finals. Instead, the controversial agitator found himself suspended and no longer wanted in Dallas.
Avery will face his former team for the first time since their bitter divorce when the New York Rangers host the Stars on Wednesday night.
Avery became a fan favorite in New York after he was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 5, 2007, tallying 23 goals and 30 assists in 86 games while helping the Rangers go 50-20-16 in 86 games.
He also helped the Rangers reach the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals, and that success was noted by the Stars, who fell to Detroit in the West finals.
Avery, who twice led the NHL in penalty minutes, was seen as the perfect fit for a team looking for a competitive and feisty edge, so Dallas signed him to a four-year, $15.5 million contract in July 2008.
Five months after inking the deal, Avery was suspended six games by the NHL for inappropriate comments concerning an ex-girlfriend that was dating Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf. Avery was only 23 games into his deal with the Stars when the incident occurred.
Tension between the outspoken Avery and his teammates prompted the Stars to suspend him indefinitely and he was placed on waivers Feb. 7, 2009, and claimed by the Rangers three days later.
"He's always on the edge, certainly, on the ice, which no one really has an issue with," Stars center Mike Modano said at the time of the suspension. "But when it becomes public and it becomes off-ice situations, that's when you have a problem with it."
Avery has four goals and 10 assists with a team-high 70 penalty minutes in 37 games for New York this season. He has no goals in his last 19 games.
The Rangers (20-17-5) are looking to build on Monday's 3-2 win over Boston. Christopher Higgins clinched the win by scoring with 1:29 to play after New York surrendered two goals in a 1:26 span of the third period.
"We played a strong game," said Higgins, who snapped a personal 11-game goal drought. "We just let up a little bit. … We let them back into the game. But we were confident we were going to win, even when they tied it up."
The Rangers could use some added scoring depth to go with right wing Marian Gaborik's 27 goals, which is tied for the league lead.
New York would like to see more production from Higgins, who has five goals two seasons after posting a career-high 27 for Montreal. Injuries limited him to 12 goals in 57 games for the Canadiens in 2008-09.
Erik Christensen has two goals and two assists in three games since moving to the Rangers' top line with Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky. Christensen, who was claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Dec. 2, hadn't managed a point in a limited role during his first 17 contests -- eight with New York.
The Rangers have lost three in a row to Dallas (18-13-11), including both matchups last season. They're 2-6-0 with a tie in the last nine meetings at Madison Square Garden.
The Stars are coming off Tuesday's 4-0 loss at New Jersey as all 28 of their shots were stopped by Martin Brodeur. The defeat came three nights after they lost 3-1 despite outshooting the Canucks 32-27 overall and 14-7 in the third.
Dallas has lost four straight on the road (0-2-2) and is 1-4-3 in its last eight away games.
James Neal leads the Stars with 18 goals, but he's looking to halt a personal five-game drought. The left wing came up empty on two shots Monday, but had two goals to power a 10-2 home win over the Rangers on Feb. 6.