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Blackhawks' Richards gets comfortable by moving on

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- Brad Richards' toughest adjustment after losing in the Stanley Cup Final last season wasn't joining the Chicago Blackhawks, it was leaving the New York Rangers.

Richards was issued a compliance buyout by the Rangers. He had six years and $27 million left on a nine-year, $60 million contract he signed July 2, 2011.

"In New York, the way it ended two years ago and the way it ended last year, the whole buyout thing took on a life of its own," Richards said prior to playing the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday. "I had to forget about that and realize that I've still got lots of hockey left. If my salary was different no one would be talking about any of it. It's just part of the business.

"I wouldn't change it. I miss New York. I loved playing there. I wish it never had to come to that, but as soon as the lockout was lifted my fate was pretty much sealed there. I guess you've gotta deal with it, but I still had lots of confidence I could play and hopefully there's lots of hockey left."

Richards signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Blackhawks to be the second-line center, but it wasn't until Nov. 16, in Chicago's 18th game of the season, that he actually became the second-line center between Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg.

He was playing fewer minutes in a bottom-six role at the start of the season, but Richards said he went into the season with the understanding that his patience would be a required attribute as he tried to get used to his new team and city.

As much as he wanted everything to be perfect from Day One, Richards said he knew it wouldn't be, that he would have a challenge at the start.

"But the good thing was that it's a team that is pretty established, has played together for a while, so I could kind of work on things, figure out what goes on around here," Richards said. "Not that you want to take your time, you want to be a difference maker right away, but it wasn't as urgent as it was in some other situations I've been in."

Richards has nine points (three goals, six assists) in the past 10 games entering Tuesday. He had nine points in his first 17 games.

Perhaps most importantly, Richards feels like he's a big part of the Blackhawks lineup whereas earlier in the season he couldn't say that. He has moved on from the Rangers, is comfortable in Chicago, and proving that at 34 years old he still has plenty left.

More of the same for the rest of the season and Richards will likely be able to secure a multiyear contract from the Blackhawks or another team.

"I don't play a heavy game with bruising minutes and my body feels good, so let's see where it goes," Richards said. "This team likes to play that possession game. I'm not saying it's easier to play, but it's a little less taxing when you have the puck all night rather than when you're trying to chase it."


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