Brad Richards ready to make new Cup memories with Blackhawks


Brad Richards ready to make new Cup memories with Blackhawks

TAMPA, Fla. – Former Tampa Bay captain Dave Andreychuk talked of the 2004 Stanley Cup-winning Lightning, players from that team arriving to watch Game 1 tomorrow.

“Yeah, I heard that. I didn’t get a call yet,” Brad Richards said to laughs.

Richards has been to Tampa plenty of times since he was traded from the Lightning to the Dallas Stars in 2008. But for Richards, who helped the Lightning win that 2004 Cup and who won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his individual efforts, to have the chance at another Cup – this time with the Blackhawks – and to see his former teammates is something special.

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“A few guys came in for my 1,000th game this year in Chicago. I got to see Vinny (Lecavalier) last night with our kids together, which was a totally different feeling than 10-15 years ago,” Richards said. “Just so many great memories.”

Andreychuk said the Blackhawks, who are making their third Cup appearance in the past six seasons, were smart in getting Richards.

“A great signing by the Chicago Blackhawks to bring in a guy that just loves to play and loves to compete,” he said. “I’ve been watching the playoffs and I’ve been in contact with him. He’s excited to be here, knowing that his last Cup was in this building. But he’s another one of those guys that it’s living proof that it’s hard to get back here again. For him, he’s going to have to seize that opportunity.”

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Richards signed with Chicago last July 1, not long after he and his former New York Rangers teammates lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Final. After playing such a huge role in Tampa, Dallas and New York, on the ice and in the locker room, Richards needed time to find his niche with the Blackhawks.

“I don’t want to say it’s an intimidating team but it’s a tough locker room to walk into. They’ve done so much winning and you try to find your role. They have so many offensive guys, not like the other teams I’ve played on where you get a lot of minutes on the power play or a lot of offensive minutes. It’s a lot more spread out here,” he said. “It took a while to figure out where I could fit in.”

Richards found great November/December success when teamed with Patrick Kane. The two were together again most of this postseason until coach Joel Quenneville went to his usual late-playoff move in moving Kane to Jonathan Toews’ line. Be it the previous combination or the one now, where he’s with Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa, Richards has been steady this postseason. He’s gotten at least a point in six of his last seven games, including two assists in the Blackhawks’ Game 7 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

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“He got a chance to play with Kaner and took off. It looked like there was a little magic there, looked like he got more quickness to his game, more puck possession,” Quenneville said. “I think he’s had a real good second part of the season. Coming into the playoffs, he’s been real good for us.”

Bickell said he’s seen Richards grow more comfortable as the months passed.

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“Over the course of the regular season, from changing from where he was to coming here, he had some ups and downs when he wasn’t happy. But for the last few months he’s been excited,” Bickell said. “He knows what it takes to get the goal and we need him. He’s a guy who’s going to get offensive chances and hopefully me and Hoss can help him out.”

Richards won’t get a chance to see many of the 2004 Lightning players coming in for Wednesday’s game. Obviously, he’s a little busy right now. He would love to make some new Cup memories with the Blackhawks. The ones he made with the Lightning will always be with him.

“No matter what happens this week, can never take anything away from the 2004 team,” Richards said. “I’ll never try to compare runs; they’re all special. It’s great to see those guys no matter what’s going on.”

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut


Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!