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Martin St. Louis played big role in reigniting Brad Richards' game

Rangers' Brad Richards looks on before a face-off

Rangers' Brad Richards looks on before a face-off against the New Jersey Devils in the second period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden. (Nov. 12, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Rangers didn't appreciate what Martin St. Louis did to them on Monday in Tampa Bay's 5-0 victory. The 38-year-old had two goals and an assist on the same night the Lightning honored him for reaching the 1,000-NHL-games plateau.

But the Rangers have to appreciate what St. Louis did for them this past summer.

St. Louis invited struggling Rangers center Brad Richards to join his offseason workouts. Richards, coming off a disappointing season and facing the possibility of the end of his Rangers career, joined his former teammate with the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Lightning at Prentiss Hockey Performance in Darien, Conn.

"A great environment to train," Richards said. "He kind of sets the bar on that gym. Everybody looks up to him and is always asking, 'What's Marty doing today? What did he do? How much did he lift?' It's amazing to see the culture that they've created in there.

"It was perfect for me for this time in my career to get, and I'm definitely hooked. I'll be there every summer from now on."

It might not be a coincidence that Richards has rediscovered his game this season at age 33. He has seven goals and 10 assists in 25 games after scoring in the Rangers' 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

In last year's lockout-shortened season, Richards had 11 goals and 23 assists in 46 games and fell out of favor with then-coach John Tortorella.

If Tortorella had continued to coach the team, it's not clear if Richards still would be with the Rangers. But Tortorella -- who returns to Madison Square Garden Saturday with his Vancouver Canucks -- was fired and replaced by Alain Vigneault.

The coaching change couldn't by itself reignite Richards' game. He had to do that himself -- with an assist from St. Louis.

"Any athlete that plays at a high level in their sports, a lot of it is mental,'' St. Louis said. "We all know he has the ability. I don't think he was in a good place mentally last year. I think he's in a pretty good place right now. He really prepared himself to have a great season and I'm happy to see him doing well. It doesn't surprise me.''

Said Richards: "Marty talked to me about it a few times . Now living in New York, it made sense to be there. Marty was nice enough to offer a spare bedroom many nights when I didn't want to commute back to the city if we skated at night and had the 6 or 7 a.m. slot the next morning. It worked out nice. I don't know if I'll have that open invite every year.''

Richards might not get the extra bedroom, but he should have a spot for workouts if he wants it with his longtime friend.

Richards said the two talk "pretty much weekly on the game and things we're doing, whether it's from stick length to how the game is played. We still pick each other's brains. He's helped me a lot. I still look up to him and love how he competes. He's a good inspiration for me.''

Said St. Louis: "He really wanted to get back. The only way to do that is preparation. And he took care of that.''

New York Sports