Camp Buzz: Brad's Bug, Kreider's Chances

For the second straight day at training camp Monday, the Rangers took part in a pair of on-ice practices. And for the second straight day veteran center Brad Richards could not participate because of the flu.

While this is far from the ideal circumstance, what with such a short training camp and only five more days until the season opens in Boston, Richards' absence is seen more as a minor inconvenience than anything else for Rangers head coach John Tortorella.

"Do we want him here? Yes. Is it a major concern? No," Tortorella asked and answered after practice on Monday.

"I'm always concerned when players aren't here, especially because we are doing a lot of (team) concept stuff," continued the Rangers head coach. "But Richie knows our concept. And he was one of the guys who spent a lot of time during the lockout taking care of business, his conditioning."

For the time being Tortorella has chosen not to summon another forward from the Connecticut Whale to take Richards' spot during practices and scrimmages this week. Instead the drills have consisted of one fewer forward than normal; and defenseman Stu Bickel has slotted into a forward spot during the two scrimmages.

"These are the 22 (players) we wanted to start with, and we need to get our team reps, so I don't want too many (extra) people here," Tortorella explained. "We'll keep our eye on Hartford, but we'll see how it all works out in the next 4-5 days."

With Richards sidelined, Tortorella has taken a look at several top forward line combinations. Marian Gaborik has been tested on the left side--a switch form his usual right-wing position--skating alongside Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan, while Rick Nash has most consistently been teamed with Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin.

With Richards out, Jeff Halpern has moved up and been skating on the third line with Chris Kreider and Taylor Pyatt, while Mike Rupp has centered Arron Asham and Bickel on the fourth line during scrimmages, so far.

The Rangers did not guess as to when Richards would return to training camp.

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Tortorella had some good things to say about rookie Chris Kreider on Monday, while issuing a warning that  roster spot is no lock for the Rangers top pick in the 2009 NHL Draft either.

The head coach pointed out that Kreider had a strong second day of camp on Monday, saying simply, "I thought he practiced very well today."

And while Torts has been pleased with Kreider's attitude and approach to learning the pro game in Connecticut earlier this season, he would not rule out a return to the Whale for the former Boston College star.

"Chris is still fighting for a spot," Tortorella stated flatly on Monday. "I'm not sure exactly what the roster is going to be. We'll see how it all shakes out."

Kreider scored five goals in the playoffs last spring for New York after winning the NCAA Championship with BC. However he had only five goals and 12 points in 33 games with the Whale this season prior to joining the Rangers for training camp.

While some observers believe that Kreider will benefit greatly by playing with higher-end talent in New York, others believe that he is not quite ready for the full-time jump into the NHL.

"He has some gifts to him, " noted Tortorella. "We're hoping they are coming to the forefront. And it's our responsibility to teach him some of the other things."

As for Kreider himself, he said simply, "I am just excited for the opportunity to try and make this team."

Jim Cerny-January 14, 2013

Will Chris Kreider will be on the opening night roster? And if so, what will his impact be on the Rangers? And how is Brad Richards' absence affecting the Blueshirts? Share your opinions below.