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Milestone Man

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Ericsson is questionable for Sunday with a lower-body injury. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- Brad Richards was just a little older than Dylan Larkin is now when he made his NHL debut for the Tampa Bay Lightning in October of 2000.

On Sunday, Richards will play in his 1,100th career NHL game when the Wings host the Boston Bruins.

"You think back, long career, 1,100 games but it goes by so quick," Richards said after the Wings practiced at Grosse Pointe's University Liggett School Saturday. "I don't feel and look at myself as being old but when I look back to my first game and remember seeing guys that were my age and playing that many games, I used to think they were ancient. That's just the circle of the league. I was just trying to stay up and not get sent down, that was the goal early on and it just kind of progressed."

Richards said he has thought about the milestone.

"It always crosses your mind when you hit those things, for sure," Richards said. "I think 1,000 was probably more celebrated and special but it's still special every day you're in this league. It's an honor and hard to believe that 1,100 now. Just says I'm getting old."

Richards said he does keep a few mementos from his milestone games.

"Hopefully I'll get this jersey and a couple sticks and something like that, for my son and my family," Richards said. "I like to keep some stuff like that around. My son was born a lot later in my career than some people so probably have to show him stuff more than what he's going to remember. I always try to grab a few things to have around for sure."

The Red Wings are Richards' fifth NHL team.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill talked about what Richards has brought to the team.

"Great veteran leadership, because of the example he is to the other guys," Blashill said. "He’s come right in with Pav (Pavel Datsyuk) and Z (Henrik Zetterberg) and Kronner (Niklas Kronwall) in terms of how hard he works every day. The attention to detail he pays every day. So that’s one. I think he’s been really good, he’s competed for pucks, he’s played on the defensive side, he’s made plays. And he’s calm in all situations. He doesn’t get rattled. He’s been a real winner for me, I really have enjoyed coaching him and hopefully he continues to play real good hockey and his best hockey is in front of him."

Blashill currently has Richards centering a line with Tomas Tatar and Larkin.

"I've played center most of my career so I feel a lot more comfortable there," Richards said. "I think I'm getting more involved in the game. I felt (Friday) night, probably different night maybe our line maybe chips in with two or three goals, we had that much zone time and puck pressure. That's the next step now. I think we've slowly started to build a little bit of chemistry. If we do things, holding onto pucks like that in the zone, I think you saw some of the chances, eventually they'll go in."

ERICSSON QUESTIONABLE: Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who scored one of the Wings' goals Friday night, did not practice Saturday.

"Ericsson, I would say he’s questionable for tomorrow," Blashill said. "He didn’t finish the game (Friday) night. Today, we weren’t going to push it all. We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow."

Blashill said Ericsson has a lower-body injury.

Jakub Kindl would likely play if Ericsson can't go.

KRONWALL UPDATE: Niklas Kronwall is eligible to come off long-term injured reserve Sunday but will not do so.

Kronwall, who had arthroscopic knee surgery Jan. 19, did not skate in the team's brief practice Saturday.

"Kronwall is at a spot right now where it’s a matter of getting into game shape," Blashill said. "It’s somewhat difficult to do when you’re not practicing. We’re going to have to take that day by day. Didn’t feel as good yesterday, so he didn’t skate today. Hopefully he can get to where he can skate on consecutive days and then back into game shape. Obviously, he’s not going to play tomorrow. I don’t expect him Monday and then we’ll take it from there going into next week."

HELM-GLENDENING-SHEAHAN LINE: One thing that stood out Friday night in the Wings' shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche was Darren Helm, who had a career-high nine shots on goal.

"I thought our line played really well," Helm said. "I thought the team in general played well. (Riley) Sheahan and Glenny (Luke Glendening) were definitely forechecking really hard and giving me opportunities to get the puck and shoot. I thought every line on the whole got a lot of shots and better opportunities. It would have been nice to see one go in though."

Although that line has the ability to score, that is not its main focus.

"They all play a similar-type game, they're all real good defensively, they can be physical, they have offense in them," Blashill said. "They're a good, grinding-type line. When we played against Tampa, I thought the (Valtteri) Filppula-(J.T.) Brown, that line did a real good job and I walked out of there saying we have to find a line, especially at home, with some identity, that can make it real hard on the other team's best players. (Gabriel) Landeskog's line is their most productive line last night going into the game, so when we matched them up and Glennie and that line can make them play D zone the whole time, that's a real advantage for us. If not, they can just provide energy as well and they're a great PK line. The only problem we have is when they take a penalty when they're on the ice."

BRUINS AGAIN: The Wings play the Bruins for the third time Sunday afternoon and are still seeking their first win against them this season.

"That might be just part of it, just not having a win or playing well against them in a while," Helm said. "It just seems like they find ways to beat us. We're playing good hockey right now and we've got to find a way to beat them. It's a really big game coming up. They've kind of been built around a big, physical team but we've got to play just as hard and as physical as they can and turn the tides on them.

Although Patrice Bergeron is day-to-day with an injury, he is traveling to Detroit and could play.

"They've got a core, Bergeron, (Zdeno) Chara, (David) Krejci down the middle, their goalie, similar to a lot of teams that have stayed consistent over the years," Richards said. "They won a Cup, those guys. They've got a core that leads them, some young guys that bring energy. They're always going to be solid with those guys I mentioned."

The Bruins are playing the Minnesota Wild Saturday afternoon.

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