Deservedly so, the return of Rick Nash is making headlines as to why the New York Rangers looked so good on Thursday night. However, his impact on his linemates — most notably Brad Richards — will be the key for the team's future success.
Brad Richards has struggled of late, getting just one point during the team's four-game losing streak in Nash's absence. He also hasn't scored since the fifth game of the season, which is concerning for the team as Richards was brought in on a big contract to help put the puck in the net. His best way of doing this throughout his career has been by way of the assist column, as he he has 795 in his career.
Richards is a great facilitator of the puck, and having Nash with him on the ice should help him return to form. Nash has a way about him that opens space on the ice for his teammates, creating more scoring chances. Look to Nash's goal Thursday night. Nash turned a 2-on-2 into a 2-on-1, and took a perfect pass from Richards and found the back of the net.
Aside from that one pass, Richards looked great Thursday as he didn't shoot the puck into traffic like's he's done a lot of the past month, and his passes found the tape of his teammates.
“Yeah, I hope so,” Tortorella said when asked whether he hoped Nash could spark the team. “He’s a pretty good one-on-one player. But I think he has the ability to make plays to help others along the way.”
Together, Nash and Hagelin raise the level of play of their center, which is why Derek Stepan looked great prior to Nash's injury. Now that the duo are with Richards, perhaps he can get a point streak going and start playing his game again.
Richards hasn't been himself of late, as he's pressed to get the puck to teammates, resulting in turnovers and even a few trips to the bench from Tortorella.
Despite the sluggish start, Richards leads the team with 11 assists through 19 games, and if he continues to play with Nash and Hagelin, he should only see that number increase as the pair have proven to be dynamic scorers when they're on the ice.
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