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Nash Rests, Richards Hungry, on Saturday

After a day off on Friday the Rangers returned to the MSG Training Center Saturday morning for practice, with 20 skaters taking part in the on-ice workout. The number of Blueshirts has been trimmed in recent days with Steve Eminger and Chris Kreider assigned to the Connecticut Whale, and then on Saturday Rick Nash did not practice.

When practice had concluded head coach John Tortorella quelled any concerns about why Nash was not on the ice with his teammates, saying, "It's just a body maintenance day. He's played a lot of hockey."

Tortorella also looked to calm any fears about the play of Brad Richards as of late. The struggling veteran center was benched by Tortorella in the third period of Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders for ineffective play. However the head coach was confident that Richards---who has not scored a goal in eight games---will bounce back.

"He's not a guy I have ever been on in terms of effort, it's just sometimes he binds himself up by trying to do too much and caring too much," explained Tortorella. "He'll get through it and he'll be a good player for us."

Richards was itching to get back on the ice Saturday, saying several times after practice that he wished there was not a day off Friday because he was so hungry to get back out on the ice. When he did practice on Saturday Richards was right back in the middle centering for Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan on the Rangers top line.

"It's not fun (being benched), but it's happened before, and it'll happen again if I'm not better," explained Richards, who has two goals, eight assists, ten points, and is a +5 on the season. "I really hated waiting two days to get back at it today. I wanted to get back to work, and I actually wish there was a game today and get headed back in the right direction."

Tortorella kept his lines intact from how they started the game against the Islanders on Thursday. Besides Richards' line, Derek Stepan centered for Carl Hagelin and Stu Bickel---who was filling in for Nash, Brian Boyle was between J.T. MIller and Taylor Pyatt, and Jeff Halpern centered Arron Asham and Darroll Powe.

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As for Miller, he was excited to be still with the team. There had been much speculation as to whether or not he would remain in New York past the five games-played mark at which time the first year of his entry level contract would kick in. But with Kreider sent to the Whale, Miller wil lremain in the lineup and play his sixth game Sunday night at The Garden against the Capitals.

Tortorella said that the contract situation never was an issue or a consideration when it came to deciding whether or not the 19 year-old would remain with the Rangers. The coach emphasized that Miller has earned his place on the team, though that is evaluated constantly.

"I don't think (Kreider) did enough to get into the 20 here, but it doesn't mean he won't at a certain point in time, and I think Miller has done a little bit more on the puck and getting to pucks and has made more of a difference," Tortorella said in comparing the two rookies. 

Miller, who has two goals in five games played, admitetd that every day is a major learning process at the NHL level and that he is just trying to abosrb it all and learn as much as he can while contributing as best he can.

"There's a fast pace up here, and there's a lot to absorb, but I'm just taking it all day by day, trying to do the best I can," explained Miller. "I am constantly learning from the guys, and during the games. And I'm excited to be up here for as long as I can."

What do you think of J.T. Miller staying with the big club? And do you think Brad Richards will bounce back Sunday night against Washington? Share your thoughts below.

 

Feb 16 - 5:49pm
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