Yesterday I posted about Dave Tippett's comments regarding Brad Richards, and the possibility he might return to the team by the end of the week. I thought it odd that this tidbit of information came from D Magazine blogger Jeff Miller, and not the lone Dallas Stars beat reporter Mike Heika. Well, today he has decided to weigh in on the topic and covers the issues with Richard's return to the ice.
He reports that today Brad Richards worked long and hard during the morning skate in Vancouver, and showed some good pep during an after-practice 3 on 3 session. Yet it is still obvious that Richards is struggling to get his wrist back in shape for a return that would be well ahead of schedule.
A lot of the talk around here lately has been about the effect of the injury on his range of motion, and how that will affect his ability to handle and shoot the puck. DBD regular Chad_ made the great point about how it's not so much the range of motion that could be the problem, but the overall strength of his wrist and arm. Heika takes that thought one step further, mainly from a first hand account of seeing Richards practice.
While he seems to be doing a pretty good job with two hands on the stick, he still doesn't have the strength to really make one-handed moves like poke checking or fighting for possession of a puck along the boards. That will probably be the biggest challenge, as Richards' right hand is the top hand on the stick, and it is required to do a lot of strength work in the course of a game. And even though the brace makes it sturdy, it does not make it stronger.
That's where this injury will have the biggest effect on Richards' game. The NHL is a rough, physical sport and over half the game is spent fighting along the boards with opponents for control of the puck. That includes a ton of one handed stick control and it's clear that Richards does not have the strength built up yet to put his wrist under that type of strain.
Hearing where his progress is right now tells me that he is at the very least a week away from returning to the ice. I would circle next week's home game versus Vancouver as a very real possibility for his return and anything sooner than that would be incredible I actually would not be surprised if he sat out until next Thursday versus Los Angeles.
However, the fact that he is on this road trip with the team speaks a lot about how close they believe he is to returning. Yet this coaching and medical staff have never been one to rush a player onto the ice and have always been cautious with injury. Steve Ott is an exception, but right now there is really no danger of further injury to his hand. The Stars need to be careful anout Richards coming back before he is truly able and ready, especially if Dave Tippett is expecting him to step right back into the role and minutes he enjoyed before he was hurt.
The coach and the player have mentioned that San Jose on Saturday is a very real possibility for his return. As Heika says though, don't be disappointed if he waits a few more days.