May 24, 2013, 9:52 AM EDT
At the same time, Tortorella decided it was important to go into detail about why Richards was a healthy scratch on Thursday after being previously relegated to the fourth line.
“By no means is this a situation when I take him out that I’m blaming him,” Tortorella said, per NHL.com. “I’m playing Brad on the fourth line, he’s playing seven or eight minutes, it’s not good for him. It doesn’t work playing Brad Richards that way, but I also feel some other guys have played better so that’s where he is right now in our lineup.”
Tortorella determined that he didn’t have a spot on either of the Rangers’ top two lines for Richards, but he also needed to give the fourth line “some sort of identity,” so Richards had to come out.
The obvious question now is what’s next for the 33-year-old forward. If the Rangers can’t find a use for him in the playoffs, they might buy out his massive contract. Perhaps that will happen, but Tortorella is still in his corner even if he isn’t using him.
“I’m sure people will pick it apart, but I want to make sure you know Brad Richards is a hell of a hockey player,” Tortorella said. “He has had struggles. He’s had struggles here. It continues. Me putting him in that role does not help him. So I’d rather have him out and identify how we’re going to run our fourth line.”
We’ll see if Richards is given a chance to bounce back in Game 5.
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