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Hartnett: Richards Must Respond To Tortorella's Wakeup Call

'Rangers Inside And Out'
By Sean Hartnett
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Brad Richards entered John Tortorella's doghouse during Thursday night's 4-3 defeat to the New York Islanders.  The highly-paid centerman helped Tortorella lift his first Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay, but he isn't immune to being locked in Tortorella's doghouse.

Richards found himself benched for 19 minutes during the third period.  It was only in overtime that Tortorella let Richards loose, and he appeared to have received the message when he spoke after the Rangers' shootout loss.

"It's on me," Richards said after the game. "There's not really much else to divulge about it."

Richards needs to get over the hump now.  Last season's production of 66 points in 82 games was substandard for Richards, especially considering his outstanding production on mediocre Dallas Stars teams.

On the surface, 10 points in 13 games doesn't look like a problem.  If you dig a little deeper, you'll notice that Richards is on an eight-game goalless drought. The issue with Richards is how he's disappeared for entire chunks of periods and his lack of confidence on the power play.

The Rangers are 28th overall in power play conversion rate.  You only need to look as far as Richards to see why the Rangers' power play isn't clicking.  Richards has only accounted for one power play assist and zero power play goals through 10 games.

"I think I was just trying too hard," Richards said.  "Instead of moving the puck when I had it, I was trying too hard and that's why I got myself into jams.  I'm smarter than that."

Richards committed three turnovers against the Islanders and Tortorella felt that he had no choice but to sit him down.

"Yeah, I mean it's a pretty big hole, but I felt I had to," Tortorella said of Richards' benching.

During his time in Dallas, Richards was one of the NHL's elite playmakers.  His vision was uncanny as he made Loui Eriksson and James Neal into better players.  Richards is supposed to be a game-changing player.  Unlike Rick Nash's dazzling ability, Rangers fans haven't seen enough wizardry from Richards.

"He thinks I'm a better player than I showed, which is good," Richards stated. "He's holding me accountable. I agree with him."

Now that Richards has gotten the message, it's time for him to respond and play the kind of hockey that Tortorella and Rangers fan expect of him.

With slightly more than a quarter of the season gone, the Rangers currently sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.  It's not where Richards or the Rangers expected themselves to be.

If the Blueshirts are to rise up the standings, they need their foremost playmaker to find his game immediately and be the difference-maker that everyone expects him to be.

How concerned are you about Richards' funk? Do you think he'll snap out of it sooner rather than later? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettHockey.

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