A few thoughts as Long Island prepares to celebrate the “Core of the Four,” the 17 players who were part of all four New York Islanders title teams in the early 1980s.
Shining Star — Brad Richards’ only problem may be dealing with great expectations.
Richards had a boffo debut with Dallas, piling up a career-high five assists as the Stars rolled to a 7-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. He set up all three goals in Niklas Hagman’s hat trick and became the first Dallas Star to get five assists in a game.
The problem: What does he do for an encore?
“Hopefully I didn’t do too much, expectations are going to get too high,” he laughed after his first game since being acquired from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline. “I know it’s going to get harder, it was one of those nights that the guys were getting in the open. I just have to keep that excitement level up and who knows what’s going to happen. I’m just so happy to be a part of this and hopefully it keeps going.”
Richards, who never had more than three assists in a game, was a plus-2 in 19:16 of ice time. He looked like he’d been a Star for years, rather than hours.
"It's a lot of fun to play with these guys," the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner said. "I just have to keep that excitement level up, and who knows what's going to happen."
The Stars can’t expect five points every night, but they’re hopeful Richards could be the missing piece of their Stanley Cup puzzle.
Nightmare debut — Unlike Richards, Marian Hossa, the other big name traded at the deadline on Tuesday, had a debut he’d like to forget.
Not only did Hossa’s new team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, absorb a 5-1 beating in Boston, the speedy forward didn’t make it through the second period. The five-time All-Star played just 13 shifts before banging knees with Boston’s Glen Murray in the second period and leaving the game.
"It was an accidental hit, knee-on-knee," said Hossa, who could miss about a week. "This is disappointing. I was trying to get comfortable with my linemates. But injuries happen, and this is the tough luck of the business we're in."
The only good news for the Penguins was that goalie Marc-Andre Fleury returned after missing nearly three months with a high ankle sprain. He stopped 16 of 18 shots in relief of Ty Conklin.
The Pens eagerly are awaiting the return of Sidney Crosby, who went down with a high ankle sprain on Jan. 18. He’s skating again, but there’s no date set for his return.
Welcome back — It’s not that Bryan Murray was dying to coach again. But with the Ottawa Senators in a slide, general manager Murray decided that becoming coach Murray was the only way to get the team back on the right track.
He may be right down the road, but the Senators fared no better in their first game under Murray than they did under John Paddock, losing 3-1 to the Flyers in Philadelphia.
"I see lots of things that have to be done, but it's kind of where the action is and I didn't mind it," Murray said. "It's not something that I was really looking forward to doing, but in a couple of days, I'll feel better about it, I think."
Murray made the coaching change after back-to-back shutout losses. Jason Spezza’s second-period goal was the Sens’ first in more than seven periods.
"We weren't as coordinated as I'd like to see and I think we will be," Murray said. "As far as attitude and that, the guys were good. It's just disappointing that we can't score more than one goal."
Rest for Rick — New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro played every game in February. Judging by coach Ted Nolan’s comments after Thursday’s 5-4 overtime win at Atlanta, he could be getting some time off soon.
DiPietro stopped only 19 of 23 shots against the Thrashers, and his play has dropped off since he appeared in the All-Star Game. Nolan danced around one questioner who asked if DiPietro was playing hurt.
“We don’t disclose all our information,” he said. “He’s played well. There were a couple of shots that beat him. We’ll see how it goes the next couple of days.”
With the Islanders starting a stretch of four games in six days, Nolan added that DiPietro “will definitely get a rest.”
It’s a conundrum for Nolan: How many games are too many for his starting goaltender? Finding the right answer could determine whether the Isles stay in the playoff hunt — they’re just two points out of eighth place in the East.
Stopper — The New York Rangers recently made a major commitment to goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, signing him to a six-year contract. Thursday night’s 4-2 win over Carolina showed why they did it.
Lundqvist made 26 saves to slow down the red-hot Hurricanes, and was at his best when Carolina threatened to tie the game after the Rangers had taken a 3-0 lead.
"In the key moments when we need him, he stands so tall," coach Tom Renney said of Lundqvist, who came into the game off a shutout of Florida on Sunday. "The confidence goes from him right through everybody on the ice surface and to the bench. We just understand that we've got the guy we need in the net to help us win this thing."
The win kept the Rangers tied with Boston for sixth in the East. They’ll need more nights like this from Lundqvist to hold onto a playoff berth.
Déjà vu — Craig MacTavish was part of the Edmonton championship teams in the 1980s, so he knows a few things about what high-scoring hockey games look like. Edmonton’s coach said the Oilers’ 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings at Rexall Place would have fit right in with the way his team won games two decades ago.
"I can't remember the last time we got five goals. It was like '80s night out there," MacTavish said. "Chances at both ends, especially in the second period. It was whirlwind hockey — which is fine, if you come away on the right side of it."
Kings coach Marc Crawford, who used to have to try to stop those Oilers teams, said his players still get revved up to play in the same building where goals once flowed like water.
“Everybody grows up watching those great Oiler teams,” he said, “even some of the younger players who weren’t here in the glory days, in the days of Kurri and Mess and Gretz and all that gang.”
Singing the Blues — The St. Louis Blues have to be happy they won’t see Ilya Bryzgalov and the Phoenix Coyotes any more this season.
The Coyotes completed a four-game sweep of the season series Thursday night with a 2-1 victory at Scottrade Center. Bryzgalov, who was brilliant in a 35-save, 2-0 victory at Phoenix on Sunday, may have been even better in the return match — he stopped 41 shots and left the Blues frustrated.
"He made the saves when he had to," St. Louis forward Brad Boyes said. "He's a great goaltender, so if he's going to see them, he's going to make the save."
The loss was another nail in the Blues’ playoff hopes — and a lift for the Coyotes, who moved within a point of the final playoff berth in the West. The Blues are six points out and getting ready for a nine-game road trip that starts next week — not the ideal circumstance for a late playoff run.
You can e-mail John Kreiser at email@example.com.