The Dallas Stars have waited 10 games to see Brad Richards return to the ice in a regular season game. They may have to wait a few more games to see the Brad Richards they remembered before his concussion though. The 30-year-old pending UFA made his way back to the lineup last night against the Calgary Flames and finished the game with over 22 minutes of ice-time. That was the good news. The bad news is he looked like a guy who had missed almost a month of action.
“I felt all right, but it wasn’t how I felt in the middle of the season when I was on form. But I had to get that one out of the way and I’ll probably have to get another one or two out of the way before I get back to feeling good.”
“I was probably looking over my shoulder too much, but that will go away once I get used to the game. I felt that, as the game went on, I was more comfortable holding onto the puck, and I think I’ll look to take more chances as I go forward. It’s confidence, really, knowing you’re going to get hit but also knowing you’re going to be fine.”
In only 57 games, Richards has 24 goals and 39 assists for 63 points this season. Through the first half of the season, he was undoubtedly one of the best players in the entire league. Somewhat expectedly, Richards looked tentative throughout the game while Marc Crawford mixed and matched his lines to find the right combinations. The superstar’s coach had the same assessment after his first game back.
“I think it’s pretty honest of us to say the speed and competitiveness of last night’s game were a little above him, but he got better as the game went on and the puck was on his stick with a chance to win in on his last shift of the game. You know that he is only going to get better. We think he is going to get better each and every day and part of that process is to give him what he needs. What he needs is more intense competition. The intense practices are something that help him maybe more than they do some of the other players that we had out there.”
It’s only a matter of time before Brad Richards is out of the headlines and back to just being one of the best players in the NHL. We thought he’d get a respite from the reports once the trade deadline passed; but with his concussion and the nagging after-effects, the Richards sideshow is still one of the most important stories surrounding the Dallas Stars. They’re right in the middle of the Western Conference playoff hunt and, like everyone else, can use all the help they can get down the stretch. If they can get Brad Richards back and healthy before the end of the season, keeping him around might end up as the biggest deadline “acquisition” in the league.
Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus
It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.
Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:
Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games
This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.
The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.
John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.
Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.
Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?
For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting upJohn Tavares.
The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.
Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd
This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)
On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.
William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.