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Crawford: Richards to play Wednesday vs. Flames

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- After missing 10 games with concussion-like symptoms, Dallas All-Star center Brad Richards is expected to make his return to the lineup Wednesday when the Stars host the Calgary Flames at the American Airlines Center.

"Well, as of right now he's scheduled to play," said Stars coach Marc Crawford. "Very pleased with that. We're looking forward to Brad coming back and playing a big part in tonight's game."

Richards hasn't played since a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 13. On his last shift of the game, he took a hard hit from the Blue Jackets center Samuel Pahlsson and hasn't played since.

But he took the morning skate with the Stars on Wednesday and said doctors had given him the green light to play.

"Medically I've been cleared to play," he said. "Unfortunately with the schedule and the road trip it's been tough to get into practices where there's a lot of people and traffic. But at this time of year it might be tough to do that anyway."

Richards has 24 goals and 39 assists in 56 games. Despite missing almost a month of action, he still leads the team with 63 points, and his 24 goals are second.

Prior to his injury, Richards was centering Dallas' top line, alongside fellow all-star Loui Eriksson and left wing James Neal. Neal has since been traded to Pittsburgh and Jamie Benn has been filling in at center for Richards over the last few games.

Crawford said Richards' return will affect how he uses Benn, but only to a certain point.

"We've used Jamie at center. We've used him on the power play," Crawford said. "We've used him on the penalty kill. I'd expect similar usage tonight."

Richards joined Dallas during their four-game western road trip last week and went through a morning skate last Thursday on an off-day in Phoenix.

"The last 10 days, I've been getting healthier and I feel good," Richards said. "Being on the ice by yourself for two weeks, enough is enough. It's fun being out there with the guys. I feel like I am back being part of the group again."

Crawford clearly is glad to have his All-Star center back in the mix.

"I want to play. That's not all up to me but I'm ready to go." -- Brad Richards

"It's nice that we have an asset like Brad Richards to draw in," Crawford said. "Brad presents huge options for us because he plays in so many situations and he's able to log big minutes. I don't foresee him playing the minutes that he did before in his first game. Again, we'll see how it goes."

Dallas was 5-4-1 without Richards, but comes off a road trip where they got seven of a possible eight points. Their run of success has moved them to fifth in the Western Conference, one point behind the fourth-place Chicago Blackhawks.

However, the Stars have struggled this season against the Flames, dropping all three of their previous meetings.
On Dec. 23, 2010, Calgary won 3-2 in a shootout in Dallas. The Flames also won 7-4 at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 21, and Feb. 16, they prevailed 4-2. Both of those wins came on the second night of a back-to-back after the Stars had faced Edmonton the night before.

"The game here was a late miscue and they won in the shootout," Crawford said. "The two games up there, I thought we played well."

Wednesday's game begins a seven-game homestand for Dallas. The Stars also could see injured defenseman Nicklas Grossman, who also got hurt in the loss to Columbus, return later this week, possibly Friday against Minnesota.

"Grossman is closer," Crawford said. "His off-ice workouts are maybe more important than his on-ice workouts right now just because range of mobility and things like that. He's really ramped that up and we're seeing good responses from him. I think it's fair to say that we're looking forward to having him back this week."

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