"It was the lowest point in my career," Richards said about being
made a healthy scratch during last year's conference semi-finals.
"You never want to be on the outside looking in when your teammates
are battling in what I consider the best part of hockey - the
Richards is coming off a sub-par performance in Game Two of the
Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings, but now he is
being counted on to help turn the team's fortunes around.
"Brad is a veteran player. I know he's going to respond real well,"
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said on Monday. "I'm confident that's
what he's going to do."
Stanley Cup hockey returned to Madison Square Garden on Monday for
the first time since they triumphed 20 years ago but pure
celebration was tempered with sober reality as the Rangers were
trailing the best-of-seven series 2-0 after two overtime losses on
the road to Los Angeles.
Thirteen-year veteran Richards, 34, has assumed a leadership role on
the team since captain Ryan Callahan was traded to the Tampa Bay
Lightning in March for forward Martin St. Louis.
"He's acting as the captain right now. He's certainly a leader in
the room. He's been a leader on the ice," said Rangers president
Richards, who 10 years ago helped the Tampa Bay Lightning win a
Stanley Cup title along with friend and current linemate St. Louis,
had a minus-three rating and a costly turnover in Sunday's 5-4
double overtime loss.
New York's number two line of Richards, St. Louis and Carl Hagelin,
were outplayed throughout.
"I'm sure Brad, with his experience, knows that their whole line
needs to be better," said Vigneault. "But they're veteran guys.
They've been around. They can evaluate their game real well.
"I'm sure they're going to have a good bounce-back game."
Richards is eager for revenge.
"As a player, you always want to get right back into it when you
lose," he said. "Especially an overtime game where you're that
close, one shot away."
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Richards, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in
Tampa Bay's run to the Cup in 2004, has five goals and six assists
in 22 playoff games this season but has no points and six shots on
goal in two games in this final.
Vigneault said he has faith his team can turn it around.
"Chance-wise we're right there with them. We played some good
hockey. We got a little unfortunate ... But, you know, we're right
there. We feel real good about our game," he said.
The Rangers coach said some key bounces went against them, but that
things have a way of evening out.
"With the right effort, the right attitude ... luck will come with
you," said Vigneault. "Well, we're working hard, working our butts
The Rangers know they must finish strong after being outscored 4-0
in third periods and overtimes in the series.
"We have to hold our serve, and we know that," Vigneault said about
winning on home ice. "But even though we're playing hard and we're
playing the right way, they're a great hockey team. Give them full
(Editing by Frank Pingue)
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