When the New York Rangers inked C Brad Richards to a nine-year, $60-million deal this offseason, many figured they’d finally found a No. 1 center to play with Marian Gaborik.
Yet just eight games into their first season together, Richards and Gaborik appear to be parting ways.
The New York Daily News reports that head coach John Tortorella split the pair in practice today to address what he called a “team funk.”
“The way I look at it, I think if you’re going to get into a routine as a team, I don’t think you can keep on changing the lines as much as I have,” Tortorella told The Blueshirts Blog. “The thing with our team right now is, it’s not one or two guys. This is a team thing, offensively anyway, there are a number of people struggling.”
While the idea of Richards-to-Gaborik is great, the reality is a little more complex. “I met the guy a month ago, for the first time in my life,” Richards said. “We have to be realistic.”
So onto the new plan: Gaborik staked with C Erik Christensen and LW Wojtek Wolski at Friday’s practice while Richards went with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. Gaborik has plenty of experience with Christensen (the two played on a line last year) while the Richards “demotion” could be to spark a pair of struggling skaters. Dubinsky has yet to score a goal this year while Callahan is on pace for just 21 points, way down from last year’s career-high 48.
Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.
Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.
This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.
“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”
While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”
And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.
Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.
In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.
Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks
A statement from Raffi Torres:
“I accept the 41-game suspension handed down to me by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. I worked extremely hard over the last two years following reconstructive knee surgery to resume my NHL career, and this is the last thing I wanted to happen. I am disappointed I have put myself in a position to be suspended again. I sincerely apologize to Jakob for the hit that led to this suspension, and I’m extremely thankful that he wasn’t seriously injured as a result of the play. I also want to apologize to my Sharks teammates and the organization.”
A statement from San Jose GM Doug Wilson:
“The Sharks organization fully supports the NHL’s supplementary discipline decision regarding Raffi. While we do not believe there was any malicious intent, this type of hit is unacceptable and has no place in our game. There is a difference between playing hard and crossing the line and there is no doubt, in this instance, Raffi crossed that line. We’re very thankful that Jakob was not seriously injured as a result of this play.”
Silfverberg says he expects to play Saturday when the Ducks open their regular season Saturday in San Jose.