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Brad Richards eager to get back on the ice with Rangers

Brad Richards celebrates his first-period goal during Game

Brad Richards celebrates his first-period goal during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden. (May 12, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- After three days of battling the flu, Brad Richards was at Rangers camp Wednesday, preparing to skate alone while his teammates had a day of off-ice meetings. "Obviously it was the wrong day to come back," Richards said with a grin. "I would have liked to have been here, but there's only so much you're going to get out of practicing anyway."

Don't ever accuse Richards of channeling former 76ers guard Allan Iverson's thoughts on practice. Far from it. The 32-year-old center, beginning his second season in New York, doesn't like sitting idle.

After the Rangers were eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals, Richards, who won a Stanley Cup with coach John Tortorella in Tampa in 2004, dove into New York projects.

He organized superstorm Sandy charity events, from the Operation Hat Trick All-Star Game in Atlantic City that raised more than $500,000 to a skating clinic with teammates on Staten Island; he rolled up his sleeves to gut flooded houses in Breezy Point and Belle Harbor; he introduced his five-year-old foundation, dedicated to raising money for children with cancer and other illnesses, with a downtown wine-tasting; joined the NHLPA's contingent for collective bargaining talks in Manhattan, and partnered in a button-down shirt company.

Now, hockey is on the front burner, and Richards scoffed at the idea of being patient after a 51-win season and a run to the Eastern Conference finals last spring. "We're ready to go 100 percent at it," said Richards, who scored 25 goals and had 41 assists. "I think the expectation part is great; it's going to put more pressure on us. We're going to get a lot of good efforts, not surprise anybody. We're not just out here trying to make the playoffs or stay in the middle of the pack. We want to push ourselves to be up top again."

Richards missed working with linemates Carl Hagelin and Rick Nash this week but pointed out that he skated with Nash five straight days last week and the Swedish speedster last season, whom he praised.

"He's starting to calm down with the puck and make plays," Richards said, noting that Hagelin was transitioning from college to the pros. "You don't blame him that some days he was probably a little straight ahead and not as creative as he would have been in college, because he wanted to stick and do the right things. Now you see him trying things and making more heady plays and looking for me and Rick. With his speed, if he plays a give-and-go type of game, no one is going to be able to slow him down if he doesn't have the puck and he gets into holes."

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