Rangers expect more from veteran Richards in Cup Final

Mon Jun 9, 2014 6:22pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - One year ago, New York Rangers veteran center Brad Richards was benched in the team's last two games of the National Hockey League playoffs because of poor play.

"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 playoffs."

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 Glen Sather.

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.   Continued...

Los Angeles Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick (L) makes a save against the New York Rangers' Brad Richards during the third period in Game 2 of their NHL Stanley Cup Finals hockey series in Los Angeles, California, June 7, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson