Panic in Brad Richards?
Is it a second straight slow start to a season for the playmaking pivot?
The Rangers' No. 1 center was benched for all but one shift of the third period of the shootout loss to the Islanders on Thursday. That was tough on coach John Tortorella: Richards is one of his favorites, having starred on the Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay team in 2004 when Tortorella was the coach there.
"Any season, you're not going to have it every night," Richards said Saturday. "It's how you get through the nights you don't have it. The other night I pushed too hard and tried to do things out of character. It snowballed and it can happen. I'd love to be able to tell you I've had it every night. But I don't."
Tortorella, who has seen the valleys before, believes Richards will regroup.
"He's a guy I've never been on as far as effort," Tortorella said. "Sometimes he binds himself up with trying to do too much, caring too much, so that's a pretty good assessment [on his part]. He'll get through it."
The track record indicates that Richards (2-8-10, just one point on the power play in 13 games) will recover, although he is aware of his on-ice inconsistency and suggests that the occasional clunker could happen again.
It is a little unsettling, however. Last year, Richards, 32, was adjusting to New York and his first season here. This time around, Richards, who has played on a line with Rick Nash almost every game, has one goal in the past 12 games, and only one of his eight assists has come on the struggling power play (5-for-48, next to last in the league).
Last season, through the first 13 games, he was 4-6-10, with one more power-play goal, one more power-play assist and just as many shots. But he finished with 25 goals, seven on the power play, and 17 power-play assists.
"You've just got to try to make it through those nights, when you can't make the right play or you're not seeing it the right way," Richards said. "It's happened to me a lot before. It's frustrating."
Yet he remains confident. "No matter how I feel or where I am, I always feel like I have a chance to make a difference,'' he said. "It was a good thing to take a deep breath."