Published April 26, 2011
It seems Richards has made headlines for the wrong reasons the last two days answering questions regarding the hit he laid on Buffalo Sabres center Tim Connolly that will force the latter to the sidelines on Tuesday for Game 7 of his team's Eastern Conference quarterfinal-round series here at Wells Fargo Center.
Richards received a minor penalty for boarding on the play and the hit wasn't reviewed by the League. For Richards, taking the heat in order to take some pressure off his teammates is all in a day's work.
"I don't mind taking the heat and taking pressure off people because I know that's my job," he told reporters. "Some things are right to the heart when people say things, but at the same time I know the 22 guys in this dressing room are confident in the things I do on the ice. People say things in the hockey community about me too, which is fine, but the only thing I care about are the people in this dressing room and in the organization."
Richards hasn't exactly set the world on fire in scoring this playoff season -- he only has 4 assists in six games. Still, that hasn't stopped him from maintaining an aggressive mentality whenever he hops over the boards for his next shift. He admits it's the only way he knows how to play to game.
"I was taught to play the game hard," Richards said. "I've got some skill, but I'm not the most skilled player. I have to work hard to be effective in this League."
Few would argue that fact.
Richards is hoping to make an impact in the third Game 7 of his career on Tuesday when the Flyers and Sabres put it all on the line for the right to advance in the Eastern Conference. In two previous Game 7 matches in his career in 2008 and 2010, he's collected 2 assists and 5 shots.
Does the excitement of a seventh and deciding game chill the very core?
"I think it only has an effect on the first five minutes and probably the last five minutes of the game; other than that it's just hockey throughout the middle," he said. "We want to come out to a good start and get the crowd into it early and play our game. It is nice to have that experience, but at the same time you still are a little bit nervous for the game and are excited to get it going."
Richards finished tied for third on the team with 66 points in 81 regular-season games in 2010-11, and he now has 133 goals and 349 points in 453 career games. His 23 goals ranked fifth on the team and 6 shorthanded points second. Strangely, though, Richards has just 2 goals in his last 15 games -- perhaps the result of continuous line shuffling.
That said, he likes the way coach Peter Laviolette keeps the players on their toes with lineup changes and adjustments.
"He goes with his gut and that's what you want as a player looking up at a coach," he said. "When he does make a decision, we have confidence in what he is doing. It's nice to see that he is not shy to do what he thinks is right to benefit the team."
Through six games of the 2010 playoffs, Richards already had 3 goals and 11 points. He'd ultimately finish with a career high 16 assists and 23 points in 23 postseason games.
Despite coming up short on the score sheet so far this postseason, the kid from Kenora, Ont., isn't about to throw in the towel.
"My dad taught me to play the game hard," Richards said. "There are a lot of things said by the hockey community, but the people I know are the people in this dressing room and my family and my friends. They know what type of person and player I am. I can't control what other people say, but I do know that the people in the dressing room and my family and friends respect me and like the way I play."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale