Brad Richards missed his second straight game Thursday night with neck and back issues after taking a cross-check from behind Sunday by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta, who was suspended five games.

Richards is improving but remains irate. "I just hope that someone doesn't have to have a broken neck and get carried off on a stretcher for that to sink in that it's just a crazy play," said Richards, who added that his neck and back were "locked up" but that he did not suffer a concussion. "We learn that in Pee Wee: If you see somebody's numbers [on the back of a jersey], you just don't do that. Hopefully, something worse doesn't have to happen where we have to make a point on that."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The veteran center, who is 2-11-13 in 20 games, did not skate earlier in the day at Nassau Coliseum. He said he feels better but is being cautious. "Each day I wake up hoping I can get out and do something," Richards said, "but there's no sense in making it go backwards or not helping the team."

On Tuesday, he began the morning skate in Westchester but left early. "When you wake up sometimes you just think, 'If I get going, get moving . . . ' " he said. "But that morning, it went the other way, so I just got off and started over."

Being sidelined is "not a long-term thing," Richards said. "I went in pretty hard. I just need to let the body regroup a little bit. Overall, I'm standing here talking about trying to play right now, and that's a few days after, so I'm pretty fortunate."