NASHVILLE — Brad Richards talked of the “second season,” as it were, that time of year that reignites the spark that can sometimes flicker in a draggy, 82-game season.
“I can tell you all year how excited I was to play games in October,” he said. “But when I signed in July I was thinking about this.”
“This” is the postseason. “This” is what so many players aspire to get to, and what the Blackhawks have gotten to for seven consecutive seasons. It’s exciting for every player. It’s even more exciting for those like Richards and Kimmo Timonen, who, either via free agency or trade, looked at the Blackhawks as their next great opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.
“I still feel we have really good chance to do something well here,” said Timonen, who is chasing his first Cup. “We all know it’s a long process. It’s not something we can do quickly. But this team has as good a chance as anyone else. I’ve seen clips when this team plays really well; we are hard to beat. In the playoffs it’ll be tight. But I have a lot of confidence we can do it.”
Timonen missed the last three games of the regular season with an upper-body injury sustained against the St. Louis Blues. But coach Joel Quenneville said Timonen be healthy and available to play during the postseason. The veteran defenseman is here for one reason: he wants to win a Cup. It’s the one thing that kept him motivated as he battled blood clots, which were discovered last summer and kept him off the ice until February.
Going back to Nashville, where he played for several seasons, is extra motivation.
“It gives me some extra energy, extra excitement,” he said. “I was there eight years and I was a captain one season. I had a good time there, played a lot of games there. Excitement is building and it’s a good sign. That’s what we do this sport for, and I’m sure everyone’s feeling the same way.”
For Timonen, this is it. Whether he wins that elusive Cup or not, he said he’s retiring at the end of this season. Richards has several years’ worth of hockey in front of him, although it’s likely one-and-done with the Blackhawks. The motivation’s there nonetheless. This is the fun part of the season, the time every player strives to get to.
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“You go through the process, go through the grind – especially since I signed two weeks after losing in the Cup Final. So you’re really hungry and want to get back into the battle,” Richards said. “Starting Wednesday night, that makes it worth the whole process. I have as good a chance as anyone with this team to win.”