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Blackhawks' Richards a veteran of outdoor games

by Dan Rosen

WASHINGTON -- Chicago Blackhawks center Brad Richards has become an outdoor-game regular. He's also undefeated in these games.

The 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park on Thursday will be Richards' fourth career outdoor game and third in just over 11 months. His previous three came while he was a member of the New York Rangers.

Richards made his outdoor debut in the 2012 NHL Winter Classic in Philadelphia, a 3-2 win for the Rangers thanks to Richards' game-winning goal at 5:21 of the third period.

He also played in both 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series games at Yankee Stadium. The Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 7-4 on Jan. 26, and the New York Islanders 2-1 three nights later.

"In an 82-game schedule, when you've played a lot of the same thing, it's nice to have a little different change to bring excitement, to have the day here [Wednesday], the practice, hang out in these great venues," Richards said. "It brings something different to the schedule that we can all look forward to. We know how many eyes are on it, so it's great for the game."

Richards remarkably has been the visitor in all four of his outdoor games. The Rangers were considered the visiting team in both games at Yankee Stadium.

"Well, technically, but if Rangers are visitors in Yankee Stadium -- it didn't feel like we were visiting," Richards said.

The fact that all of his outdoor game experience has come in baseball stadiums should help Richards on Thursday.

"With your depth perception, and how small the rink feels when you walk out there for the first time, you get used to that," Richards said. "I think you also get used to that there could be a lot of different things that happen [Thursday], so the more you play in them the more you're ready for delays or bad ice, little things that could happen. But actually the ice was really good [Wednesday]. I didn't notice any soft spots, which I have in the past."

Most important, experience in outdoor games gives players such as Richards the ability to compose themselves when the game gets under way.

"A lot of it is simple, weird bounces, straightforward hockey," Richards said. "You'd like put on a big show, but with everything being so different and sometimes some bouncing pucks, different things like that, you've really gotta be patient and simple. I've been fortunate to win a few so hopefully we can do that [Thursday]."


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