Richards among Rangers healthy scratches for Game 4
Reports out of the New York Rangers morning skate indicate a big lineup shakeup before tonight's pivotal Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Brad Richards, New York's $58 million man, appears to be headed to the bench in a game that the Rangers must win to extend their series with the Boston Bruins.
Richards isn't the only one out. He was demoted to the fourth line during the first round of the playoffs, and his line mates, Arron Asham and Chris Kreider are also likely healthy scratches tonight, with the Rangers instead dressing Ryane Clowe (back from a head injury sustained in round one), Kris Newbury and Michael Haley. Neither Newbury or Haley has played this postseason, and neither brings much scoring ability to an offense that has struggled to put the puck in the net.
Richards had a difficult second season in New York and has scored just one goal this season, despite being an anchor on the Rangers' dismal power play. This benching, which could be compared to the Yankees sitting Alex Rodriguez last postseason, could be the first step towards New York amnestying Richards' huge contract this summer. Richards signed a nine-year $58.5 million deal with the Rangers in July of 2011.
In other New York lineup moves, defenseman Anton Stralman is likely out after sustaining an apparent head injury in the Rangers' Game 3 loss. Veteran Roman Hamrlik is likely to replace him on the blue line. Don't expect Hamrlik, or any of the New York subs (except perhaps Clowe) to play very much in tonight's must-win matchup.
My opinion on the Richards benching is that it is a stupid move that makes Richards a scapegoat. Sure, he has played poorly, but he at least gives New York some scoring potential, unlike Haley and Newbury. The same goes for Kreider and even Asham (who has two goals this postseason).