Brad Richards missed his second straight game as he recuperates from back and neck soreness after being cross-checked into the half boards by Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta Sunday night.
The Rangers center was adamant the injury was “not a long-term thing,” but doesn’t “really know” when he can return to the lineup.
“It’s getting better as the week goes,” Richards told reporters after the Rangers’ early skate at the Nassau Coliseum. “Each day I wake up and hope I can get out and do something, but there’s no sense in making it go backwards or not being able to help the team.”
Richards said he was not suffering from headaches or concussion-like symptoms. Instead, the center said his back and neck “are locked up.”
“I don’t know where you want to start, how bad it could have been,” Richards said. “Overall I’m standing here talking about trying to play.”
Richards was still irritated about the incident. His body contorted like a slinky as he was slammed neck and chest first into the boards on the play.
“I don’t know what’s appropriate,” Richards said when asked if he thought the five-game suspension for Kaleta fit the crime. “Just hope someone doesn’t have to have a broken neck or carried off on a stretcher for that to sink in [that] it’s a crazy play. We learn that in pee wee — that you see someone’s numbers [and] you just don’t do that.
“Hopefully something worse doesn’t have to happen. We have to make a point on that.”
Thursday marked Roman Hamrlik’s first official day as a Blueshirt.
The Rangers claimed the defenseman off of waivers from Washington early Wednesday afternoon. The No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 draft has scored 155 goals and 638 points in 1,383 regular season games with Tampa Bay, Edmonton, the New York Islanders, Calgary, Montreal and Washington.
“Happy. Excited,” Hamrlik said when asked for his emotions once he learned he was claimed by the Rangers. “[I am] anxious to play. This is a really good team [with] one of the best [goaltenders] in the league. They have some great defensemen who can skate and move the puck [and] lots of speed in the front. This team is a Stanley Cup contender.”
Realignment on the horizon
NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr said in a statement that the NHLPA “has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season” following “discussions with the executive board.”
The NHL proposed a plan late last month in which the league would shrink from six divisions to four, with the Red Wings and Blue Jackets leaving the Western Conference for the East.
Under the proposed realignment, the Rangers would be in a division with the Blue Jackets, Islanders, Devils, Flyers, Penguins, Hurricanes and Capitals.
In a statement, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, “The NHL Players' Association confirmed to us today that it has consented to a revised plan for realignment, effective for the 2013-14 season. Our next step will be to bring the proposed plan for realignment to the NHL Board of Governors for its consideration. We will update the status of the process as future developments warrant.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.