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Stars Host Sean Avery, Rangers

(Sports Network) - Sean Avery will get his first chance to play in Dallas since his controversial stint with the Stars, as the New York Rangers visit Big D tonight for an interconference battle at American Airlines Center.

After spending parts of two seasons with the Rangers, Avery left the Big Apple to sign a four-year, $15.5 million contract with Dallas in the summer of 2008.

However, Avery was just 23 games into his tenure with the Stars when on Dec. 2, 2008 he infamously made inappropriate comments in Calgary hours before Dallas was set to face the Flames. He made a lewd reference regarding NHL players dating his ex-girlfriends, a comment that apparently was meant to get a rise out of then-Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who was dating one of Avery's former girlfriends.

Avery was suspended by the NHL for the comments before the Stars ever faced off against the Flames that evening and he never again suited up for Dallas. He was claimed off re-entry waivers by the Rangers, but only after completing an anger management course. Dallas is on the hook for half of Avery's salary until the deal they signed him to ends after next season.

Since then, Avery's only game against the Stars was on Jan. 6 of last season in New York. Avery burned his ex-teammates in that contest, posting a goal and three assists to match a career-high in points. New York won that game, 5-2, to end a three-game series' losing streak against the Stars.

Avery has not produced much for the Rangers this season, as he just one goal and 14 assists in 41 games. He has 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists) in 25 career games against the Stars.

Stealing some of the spotlight away from Avery is the return of another former Star to Dallas, but this one came back in a trade this morning. Jamie Langenbrunner was acquired from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a conditional third round pick in the 2011 NHL draft.

The 35-year-old Langenbrunner is returning to the Stars, who drafted New Jersey's former captain in the second round of the 1993 draft. The veteran forward spent his first six and a half NHL seasons with the Stars before getting dealt to the Devils during the 2001-02 season. Langenbrunner has won a pair of Stanley Cups -- one with each of his NHL teams.

"We are very excited to add Jamie to our team," said Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, who was a teammate of Langenbrunner's in both New Jersey and Dallas. "He fits the mold of the type of players we want on this roster -- strong work ethic, tough, passionate, and hard to play against."

This year, Langenbrunner had 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists) in 31 games with New Jersey. In 996 career games, the Minnesota native has recorded 232 goals and 620 points.

Dallas enters tonight's game riding a two-game winning streak to begin the 2011 calendar year. The Stars lost their last two games in December, but they've since notched consecutive 4-2 road victories in St. Louis and Chicago.

The most-recent win came Wednesday night in the Windy City. Mike Ribeiro posted a pair of power-play goals, including the deciding score just after the midway point of the third period, as Dallas downed Chicago at United Center.

Brenden Morrow also tallied on the advantage and Steve Ott added a short- handed score for the Stars, who won their sixth straight road game. Kari Lehtonen was strong in the win with 35 saves.

"We just work hard and believe in ourselves. This is certainly a huge win," Lehtonen said. "It's good to get two points."

While Dallas has been on a road tear recently, the club has lost its last four home games. The Stars, who hold a five-point lead over San Jose for the Pacific Division lead, are 12-6-3 as the host this year.

The Rangers, meanwhile, were able to end a two-game skid their last time out, defeating the visiting Carolina Hurricanes in overtime on Wednesday. Rookie Mats Zuccarello scored his first NHL goal with 1:51 remaining in OT to lift the Blueshirts to the 2-1 victory at Madison Square Garden.

Zuccarello, a 23-year-old Norwegian, also set up a third-period goal by Matt Gilroy. Brandon Dubinsky had two assists and Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves for the Rangers.

"It was a fun game to play ... a lot of action on both ends," Lundqvist said. "Smart decisions on both ends. It is important in a low scoring game to not give the puck away and we didn't. Tonight we played a very smart game."

Tonight marks the first of consecutive road games for the Rangers, who are 13-7-1 as the visitor this year.

New York has just one win in its last eight trips to Dallas.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.