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Rangers' Avery embraces the role of Sabre-rattler

Sean Avery hates Daniel Briere. He hates Chris Drury, too.

The Buffalo Sabres co-captains shouldn't take it personally, however. Avery hates everyone in blue and gold.

The New York Rangers haven't had a game in six days, so their players have had a lot of downtime to fill. Avery has been using his to visualize his opponents in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"I've just secretly been making up things in my head about guys on their team that they've done to me so I can identify with them when we're going in a corner," Avery said Monday in New York. "I've already decided I hate all those guys, so we're not going to have any problem with that."

Hate is a common word when discussing Avery. His peers named him the most hated player in the NHL in a poll by the Hockey News, and he won in a landslide. Avery got 66 percent of the vote while Nashville's Jordin Tootoo placed second with just 6 percent.

Any Atlanta player who didn't vote for him likely would now. He agitated the Thrashers in the first round and caused them to take numerous undisciplined penalties. Avery, acquired from Los Angeles in February, does the same thing to most teams, but he can also play. He had one goal, four assists and 19 shots in the four-game sweep of the Thrashers.

"I don't know why he feels like he has to take on this role all the time because he's actually a pretty skilled guy," said Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, who likely will see Avery in his crease a few times. "He just feels that's the way he has to stay in the league, that's fine. Hopefully, we can try and find a way to take advantage of it. He's going to try and draw people into penalties, and if we're smart enough he's going to be taking them.

"It's pointless to get caught up in his little soap operas."

The 27-year-old is indeed young and restless, and he mixes the bold and the beautiful (the outspoken winger dates actress Elisha Cuthbert). He's also got a plan for how to play the Sabres.

"Knocking them on their butts, really," he said. "I think that's the most important thing. I think if you're doing that, then it's tough for a team to play."

***

Any time Tim Connolly leaves the ice with a grimace, observers immediately think the worst. So when the Sabres forward went to the dressing room while his team was still practicing Monday in HSBC Arena, the injury questions started.

"His hamstring's been bothering him," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I just went down and told him, 'Why don't you get off and get it treated. Let's not aggravate it any more.' I thought he got about 45 minutes in, and I didn't need him skating the last drill."

Connolly, who missed 80 games this season with a concussion and stress fracture in his leg, didn't seem worried about the hamstring problem.

"It was just some minor soreness," he said. "It's something where I could have kept skating, but we've got some time now so I may as well get off, get it taken care of, stretched out -- make sure we're not tight for the game."

***

The Sabres haven't played in four days, so die-hard fans might be going through game withdrawal. The NHL has teamed with Amazon.com to cure that.

The league and the online company announced Monday that select regular-season, playoff and classic games are available for viewing through the Amazon Unbox digital video download service. Three or more games will be available per week as soon as 48 hours after they end.

Sabres games already available at www.unbox.amazon.com include Game Four of the first-round series with the Islanders and, for those who can deal with a bitter loss, Game Six of the 1975 Stanley Cup finals against Philadelphia.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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