Canucks' Brad Richardson aims to return for playoff opener

 

 
 
 
 
Brad Richardson #15 of the Vancouver Canucks plays the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 15, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
 

Brad Richardson #15 of the Vancouver Canucks plays the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 15, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Photograph by: Elsa, Getty Images

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VANCOUVER - There is always intrigue about hockey injuries, especially come playoff time, but it didn’t appear Monday that Vancouver Canuck centre Brad Richardson was trying to bluff anyone.

Richardson has a bum ankle and has missed 37 of the last 39 games. He’s endured setback after setback. Orignially injured Jan. 16 in Carolina, he sat out for two months, played March 14 against the Leafs and March 17 against the Flyers, and hasn’t played since.

Now the playoffs have arrived and Richardson is aiming to be ready for Game 1 Wednesday against the Calgary Flames. He participated fully in Monday’s practice, replacing Linden Vey on a line between wingers Shawn Matthias and Derek Dorsett.

“It’s been a really tough second half of the season thinking you’re healthy and then not being able to play at all,” Richardson said. “It was super frustrating but it will all be worthwhile if I can get back in there (Wednesday).

“Jumping back into playoff hockey will be hard but I’ve done it before so I’m not too concerned. I just want to be healthy. I wouldn’t play if I didn’t think I could be effective — and they wouldn’t put me in either. We’ll see how tomorrow goes. I still have to get over that hurdle and then we’ll make a decision. But I wouldn’t play if I wasn’t ready.”

Assuming Richardson survives Tuesday’s practice, his appearance in the lineup Wednesday should give the team some added juice. Richardson, 30, is gritty, experienced, a quality penalty killer and good faceoff man. Vey, meanwhile, is a smallish skill player who struggles in the heavy going.

There is every possibility that a Matthias-Richardson-Dorsett trio could be a colossal pain in the butt to the Flames.

“Obviously getting Richie back, if he’s in, is huge,” noted Dorsett, who went four playoff rounds last spring with the New York Rangers. “He’s a guy who plays hard at both ends of the ice so it’s a big boost for us. I don’t think there are any secrets as to what kind of line it’s going to be. If that’s the way we open up, we want to make sure we keep things simple, that we’re finishing our checks and playing a big, heavy game.”

Richardson has been through so many false starts in his rehab that he was in no position Monday to declare he’ll be on the ice when the puck drops Wednesday night.

“We’re hoping we’re over the hump,” he said. “We’re literally trying to take it one day at a time and, hopefully, it kind of holds up. I was trying to get back into the lineup as soon as I could but it just wasn’t happening. So I just kind of stopped skating when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to play in the regular season. We were trying to focus on Game 1 if we got there.”

Matthias, meanwhile, did declare he is good to go after sitting out the final two games of the regular season with an upper-body ailment.

This will be just the second playoff series for the 27-year-old Matthias, who spent most of his career with the sad-sack Florida Panthers. The Cats made it to the dance in 2011-12 and were ousted in seven games by the New Jersey Devils.

“I mean, it’s tough to make the playoffs,” Matthias said. “I remember in Florida, we had Stephen Weiss and it took him 11 years to make the playoffs. So it’s something you can’t take for granted. It’s tough to get there and when you do get there, you have to take advantage of it.

“The one year in Floirda we got in, it was great to see how crazy the fans were and how into it everyone was. This time around, in a Canadian market, playing against another Canadian team, it’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait for the first game.”

Like Dorsett, Matthias is intrigued to see what type of impact Richardson will have on the Canuck fortunes.

“He’s a guy who is good on the bench, good in the dressing room, he plays hard and brings a lot to the table,” Matthias said. “It’s good to have him back out there. We need him for this time of year. He’s the type of player who is going to do well in the playoffs.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing with Richie. We’ve clicked well together in the past. He looked good today and, hopefully, he is ready for Wednesday.”

The other Canuck lines at Monday’s practice remained unchanged. The Sedin twins were with Alex Burrows, Nick Bonino was between new father Chris Higgins and Radim Vrbata, and Bo Horvat skated with Ronalds Kenins and Jannik Hansen. Vey and Brandon McMillan were the extras.

epap@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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Brad Richardson #15 of the Vancouver Canucks plays the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 15, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
 

Brad Richardson #15 of the Vancouver Canucks plays the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 15, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Photograph by: Elsa, Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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