Brad Richards

Brad Richards returns to game, but not to mid-season form

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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.

Brad Richards talked to the Dallas Morning News the day after his return to the team.

“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.

Star struck: Sens chase Niemi after three goals on nine shots (Update: And now he’s back)

Milan Michalek, Antti Niemi
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Bet Antti Niemi misses playing Buffalo.

Niemi, who stopped 46 of 47 shots in back-to-back wins over the Sabres last week, was hooked during Tuesday’s game against the Senators after allowing three goals on nine shots.

In Niemi’s defense, tonight’s goals weren’t exactly his fault.

John Klingberg coughed up the puck badly on Bobby Ryan‘s opening tally…

And on Ottawa’s second goal, Jyrki Jokipakka lost a board battle moments before Milan Michalek snapped one home:

The Sens’ third marker also came on a turnover.

Update: Well, this is quite the night for Dallas netminders. Kari Lehtonen replaced Niemi, allowed a goal, then got hurt in this collision with Klingberg, which forced him from the game and Niemi back into action.

Foley aware of Seattle reports, but says Vegas is ‘proceeding as if we will play in 2017’

Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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Bill Foley, the man behind Las Vegas’ prospective NHL expansion team, says he knows about reports claiming the league is keeping an eye on a proposed Seattle arena.

He also says he isn’t going to worry about things out of his control.

“I’m aware of what’s going on (in Seattle) but in my communication with the league, our situation isn’t dependent on third parties,” Foley said Tuesday, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We believe we’re in good shape and we’re proceeding as if we will play in 2017.”

Over the weekend, a Seattle Times piece suggested the NHL had yet to award Vegas or Quebec City an expansion franchise because the league is “avoiding any expansion decision until after an upcoming Seattle City Council vote likely to decide the fate of Chris Han­sen’s proposed Sodo District arena.”

The piece also suggested Seattle could be granted an expansion club for the 2018-19 campaign.


That vote, on granting Hansen part of Occidental Avenue South for his arena, is expected by January. No one knows how it will go, only that the lead-up should be politically charged and fiercely contested.

But passing it — future legal appeals notwithstanding — paves the way for Hansen to obtain his Master Use Permit and have his arena “shovel ready” should he choose to build.

And that means, once a vote passes, it’s entirely possible the NHL could conditionally award Seattle an expansion team.

To his credit, Foley remains solely focused on his Vegas bid — not what potential rival bids could bring to the table. And while he confirmed he has yet to be invited to the Dec. 7 NHL Board of Governor’s meeting in Pebble Beach, he re-iterated his only objective is to strengthen Sin City’s case for a hockey team.

“I’m focused on trying to find a place to build our practice facility,” he said. “I’m focused on the new arena and our fans who’ve put down deposits on season tickets.”

Report: Sabres’ Lehner (ankle) suffered minor setback in recovery

Robin Lehner
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Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.

Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.

(So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)

While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.

Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:


The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”

Welcome Ryan Johansen to the trade rumor mill

Ryan Johansen

Well, this kind of seemed inevitable — there are now trade rumblings involving Columbus center Ryan Johansen.

This evening, TSN’s Darren Dreger revealed that teams have been calling Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen about the talented pivot, adding that one team classified Johansen as being “softly” in play.

More (transcribed from video):

“That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’

“What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”

The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.

It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.

Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.

All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.