Center Brad Richards may be the highest-paid player on the New York Rangers' roster this season with a $12 million salary, but that won't be enough to keep him in the lineup. Richards will be scratched for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Bruins, according to Katie Strang of ESPN.com:
#NYR Brad Richards is scratched for tonight's elimination game. Tortorella called him this morning to tell him— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) May 23, 2013
Richards confirmed head coach John Tortorella's decision, according to Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com, and said that he was "disappointed" by the decision:
Brad Richards confirms he's out for tonight's Game 4 as a healthy scratch for NYR. Said he was "disappointed" about it #BruinsTalk— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) May 23, 2013
Despite the fact that Richards has struggled throughout the playoffs, this move comes as a pretty big surprise. The Rangers trail the Bruins, 3-0, in the series, so a loss will send them home for the offseason. If nothing else, Richards has the skill necessary to make a big play at any given time, and the consequences of shelving him for a must-win game could be huge.
I will say this: This has to be one of more difficult decisions of John Tortorella's career. Question is: what will consequences be?— Pat Leonard (@NYDNRangers) May 23, 2013
Richards put up 15 points in 20 playoff games for the Rangers last season and showed his penchant for making clutch plays, including this late, game-tying goal against the Washington Capitals:
Is scratching Richards in Game 4 the right move?
Through 10 playoff games this season, though, Richards has just one goal and hasn't recorded a single assist. He also sports a minus-three rating and has been bumped down to the fourth line.
He didn't exactly have a great regular season by his standards with 34 points in 46 games, but this is a sudden fall from grace.
The decision had to be a difficult one for Tortorella, as he coached Richards and the Tampa Bay Lightning when they won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04. Richards had 26 points in 23 games during that run and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason's most valuable player.
Richards won't have the opportunity to test his playoff mettle in Game 4 against the Bruins, however, as Tortorella decided to go in a different direction.
Whether it proves to be the right choice or not, there are now big question marks when it comes to Richards' future in the Big Apple.
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