By Matt Calamia (Twitter)
Rangers head coach John Tortorella yesterday opted to remove Brad Richards — along with Arron Asham — from the lineup and insert rugged forwards Michael Haley and Kris Newbury onto the team’s fourth line, which the coach felt needed a “life and identity.”
After Thursday night’s dramatic 4-3 overtime win in Game 4, Tortorella said playing Richards on the fourth line — where he’s skated since Game 6 of the team’s opening round against the Washington Capitals — was “not good for him” or the team.
“I’m not playing him the proper way,” Tortorella said. “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,” and that the new players bring “some fresh legs, some enthusiasm” into the lineup.
If Game 4 and Friday morning’s practice is any indication, that fourth line will continue to consist of Haley, Newbury and Derek Dorsett, all of whom played about eight minutes last night.
“Fourth line, we want to go out banging and get them on their toes and make sure they’ve got their heads up while we’re out there,” Haley told BlueshirtsUnited.com Friday, a day after he skated in his first career postseason game. “We want to stay in their end and get some energy going our way, especially in the home barn to get the fans into it.”
While Newbury did take a penalty in Game 4, Tortorella said the trio “gave us some good shifts.”
The line combined for nine hits, which is something Haley said must be a constant if they want to remain effective.
“We want it to be physical,” he said. “Newbs, Dorss and I have a smiliar game. That’s our bread and butter, and we want to establish that every chance we get.”
Their teammates praised the line after Thursday’s game and again on Friday.
“Newbs’ line did a great job of buzzing and creating and got some energy for us,” said Brian Boyle, who scored the Rangers’ third goal of the game on a power play.
“They did a great job coming in,” said Henrik Lundqvist. “They did exactly what we hoped [the change] would do. I’m happy to see that.”
Richards skated Friday morning with the taxi squad before the team’s optional skate, indicating he will not be re-inserted into the lineup for Game 5 in Boston.
After a strong finish to a somewhat frustrating season for Richards, the 33-year-old posted one goal through 10 playoff games with just 18 shots on goal. In Game 3 on Tuesday night, Richards played a career playoff low 8:10, though 2:12 of it came on the power play.
“This is a Conn Smythe winner. A guy I’ve grown up with. A guy that I love as a person and a player, but I have to make that decision regarding this” Tortorella said Thursday. “This is my decision and I make it for the hockey club.”
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