Brad Richards bolted the Dallas Stars after three full seasons this past summer to head to the East Coast and play for the New York Rangers when they offered him a nine-year, $60 million contract, plus the chance to play with his former Stanley Cup-winning coach in John Tortorella. Tuesday night, the star center will play his former team at Madison Square Garden for the first time since signing with the Blueshirts (7 p.m. EST, MSG)
When the Rangers (17-6-4) signed Richards, they were looking for a No. 1 center to jump into their lineup to alleviate some of the pressure on youngsters such as Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov and give the team some much-needed depth at the pivot. Granted, Stepan and Anisimov have seemingly taken the "next" step so far this season on a line with Marian Gaborik, but Richards' addition has formed two consistent scoring lines. New York also wanted the 31-year-old in order to quarterback a power play that had nice pieces, but struggled to put it together and was ranked 18th in the league last season. The Blueshirts are ranked the same this season, but have scored 11 power-goals in their last nine games. Richards' 11 power-play points leads the team, and his 25 points tie him for first with Gaborik.
The Stars (16-11-1), meanwhile, started out of the gates looking like an elite team, but have struggled since the middle of November. They're currently without their top goalie, Kari Lehtonen, and will have to rely on journeyman Andrew Raycroft or rookie Richard Bachman to get the job done. Jamie Benn, 24 points, and Loui Eriksson, 22 points, are two exciting young talents, but both have cooled off considerably since the hot start. Still, it doesn't make them any less dangerous and the Rangers have to focus on containing that line. Expect Henrik Lundqvist to get the start in goal tonight.
After two dominating wins, the Rangers need to take care of business in a game -- on home ice -- against a team that's struggling to figure out who they are.