Nothing says playoffs like players missing time with secretive injuries, and the Chicago Blackhawks are off to a roaring start. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville announced Tuesday afternoon that center Brad Richards will miss the final three regular season games with an upper body injury.
Richards, who inked a one-year, $2 million deal with the Blackhawks this past off-season, is expected to be back in time for the playoffs, so it could be a minor ailment that the Blackhawks are simply allowing the 34-year-old Richards to nurse back to health.
The Blackhawks do have a tendency to not reveal the nature of injuries, which you may recall from Johnny Oduya’s two-week upper body injury absence or the mysterious foot injury Corey Crawford sustained away from the rink. This season, Richards has already missed three games to an upper body injury, but that was all the way back in December.
Just as the exact nature of the injury is not clear, neither is when it was sustained. Richards have averaged nearly 15 minutes per game this season, and played 15:30 in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
In 76 games for the Blackhawks this season, Richards has scored 12 goals and 37 points. However, he was brought in to be the team’s number two center behind Jonathan Toews, but has failed to remain in the role, moving up and down the lineup throughout the season. When he returns in time for the playoffs, it’s unclear where exactly he’ll slot into the Blackhawks’ lineup.
During the New York Rangers’ run to the Stanley Cup final last season, Richards chipped in five goals and 12 points. In 118 total playoff games between the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars and Rangers, Richards has potted 33 goals and 90 points.
For Tuesday evening’s game against the Wild, recently signed NCAA free agent winger Kyle Baun will suit up in Richards’ place. Baun, 22, signed with the Blackhawks on March 26, but has yet to suit up for game action. In 38 games for Colgate this season, Baun notched 14 goals and 29 points.
With the injury to Richards, Antoine Vermette, who was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes at the trade deadline, will move back to center, his natural position, after slotting in on the wing against the Blues.