Richards' injury hands Stars another tough test

February, 17, 2009
The Dallas Stars have showed their resolve by turning around their season without top defenseman Sergei Zubov and captain Brenden Morrow.

Now we'll see if they're pushing the envelope by trying to survive without a third key star, forward Brad Richards, who is now out six to eight weeks with a broken wrist.

"It's going to show our character," Richards told on Tuesday. "Marty [Turco] has been playing really well and that will still be the key."

Richards is a huge loss for a Stars team in a wild race to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. He led all Stars forwards in average ice time, and he was a fixture on the power play, and in penalty-killing and late-game situations. He's second on the team in points with 48 (16-32) in 55 games.

"He's out and we are moving ahead with our group of players," Stars co-GM Les Jackson told via e-mail. "We will measure our options as we move along."

The next two weeks before the March 4 trade deadline will tell Jackson and co-GM Brett Hull whether they need to acquire help. If the team shows it can continue to win, there's less pressure to make a move, especially since Richards is expected back by mid-April (at the latest), which is around the start of the playoffs, and Morrow's goal is also to be back for the playoffs.

As down as Richards sounded over the phone Tuesday, knowing he would be back for the playoffs (which begin April 15) was definitely important. He's hoping to be back even before that if all goes well.

"Hopefully, I'm going to set a goal to be back for the first week of April," Richards said. "But the doctor said for sure, the playoffs. It's the top hand, so that makes it tough."

The top hand, his right wrist, is key on faceoffs and one-handed plays. It happened during what looked like a routine play Monday night at Columbus.

"It's a play I do 100 times a game," explained Richards. "I felt the guy on my back. I just chipped it up the boards and tried to spin away from him so I could get up the ice. I spun everything except for my forearm, which got jammed into the boards. It was a normal hockey play. ...

"It didn't feel good at all when it happened, so I knew something was bad. I could feel it snap and pop. I guess the good news is that I didn't need surgery. I got lucky that way."

Lucky, indeed; no surgery means no metal pins or anything like that.

"It's in a cast," Richards said. "I can't do much for the first three or four weeks. So it's just going to be monotony, pretty much."

At least he's got Morrow to hang out with.

"Brenden and I will keep each other company now," Richards said. "He's been very positive, so it's a very good role model to have."

Because, truth be told, Richards doesn't really know how to deal with the whole injury thing. He reminded us that this was his first NHL injury of any significance.

"I've never had anything, really," said Richards. "I missed two games back in 2003 for my grandmother's funeral. Last year at the end of the regular season, we had some meaningless games and I was a little banged up, so I sat them out. But it was nothing."

Richards had played 80 or more games since beginning his NHL career in 2000-01 with Tampa, before playing 74 last season.

"This is new to me," said Richards.

Our guess is, the Stars will try to add a forward before the deadline. But this latest injury to one of their top players will seriously test the Stars again. Few teams will have deserved it more if Dallas makes it in.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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