NEW YORK -- No one knew exactly what Dallas winger Sean Avery would do or say, and they certainly couldn't tell when it would happen.
But no one familiar with the body of his work in the NHL seemed particularly stunned to learn that on Tuesday, Avery made a controversial remark that earned him an indefinite suspension by the league.
After the Stars' game-day skate in Calgary, Avery -- having made certain there was a TV camera nearby -- convened an impromptu session with reporters. He declined to field questions, but volunteered a statement that included a reference to how "it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my [former girlfriends]." Those ex-girlfriends were referred to by a crude, sexually charged term.
"I wasn't surprised by his comments," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "I think everyone's kind of used to him making a fool of himself." However, Orpik said the league office might have overreacted by suspending Avery.
Avery has a hearing with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman today at the league office in Manhattan to discuss the incident and his suspension, the latter of which is supported by Penguins center Sidney Crosby.
"I agree with it," Crosby said. "You can't say stuff like that. There are a lot of things said on the ice, and that's where it should stay."
New coach in Carolina
The Penguins' challenge to take two points from Carolina tonight at the RBC Center probably got a whole lot tougher when Paul Maurice replaced Peter Laviolette as coach of the Hurricanes yesterday.
Not so much because Maurice, who begins his second stint in that position, is necessarily an upgrade on Laviolette, but because teams routinely perform with renewed vigor and focus when there is a new boss.
"For sure, they're going to be at their best," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "It's not an easy thing for a team to play against whenever there's a new coach, or new management, because players want to prove to the [newcomer] that he should have some faith in their game."
Former Penguins center Ron Francis, who has been the Hurricanes' assistant general manager for the past 14 months, was made associate coach.
Letang looks for new groove
The Penguins' coaching staff has been prodding defenseman Kris Letang to shoot more for most of this season.
Because nothing seemed to work -- he had 34 shots in 23 games before the Penguins faced the New York Rangers last night -- Therrien took a different tact recently, figuring that a change in Letang's equipment could have an impact on what he does with it.
"We strongly suggested to change [his] stick," Therrien said. "Because that stick, he was not shooting the puck with. He was thinking more about making plays, trying to make some passes."
Letang switched to a stick with more curve on the blade in practice earlier this week.
Carolina defenseman Frantisek Kaberle is scheduled to appear in his 500th NHL game tonight. He does not have a goal in the past 101 of them, since scoring against the Penguins March 2, 2007. ... Injured goalie Marc-Andre Fleury worked out on the ice at Madison Square Garden after the game-day skate.
Dave Molinari can be reached at email@example.com .