I thought I would give this a separate blog entry today because of the interest and the complexity surrounding Brad Richards' wrist injury. Richards had a lengthy day on the ice, going through the morning skate and staying out for a little 3 on 3 battle afterward. He said he trudged through the morning skate, but that he felt much better when he was playing in the 3 on 3, because he was able to forget about the protective brace on his right wrist and let the competitive juices get flowing.
That said, this is a really complicated injury. The wrist is fractured and the bone will take probably six weeks to heal properly. That six weeks is up on March 30, so anything before that is technically early. The wrist was pushed back when it was fractured the first time, and the brace will not allow it to be pushed back now, so that should help prevent further injury. However, there's still a chance to hurt it again. What's more, 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. What's more, Stars coach Dave Tippett said when Richards returns, he will probably be expected to play his normal 18-22 minute game. I can't imagine him killing penalties when he comes back, so that should cut back a little responsibility (he averages 2:08 PK time a game, which is tops among forwards), but he will be out on the ice in a lot of important situations and Tippett wants him to be confident that he can handle that load.
So, where does that leave us? I think even Richards doesn't know. He won't play tonight or Wednesday. He will practice Thursday and Friday in San Jose and could be available to play Saturday against the Sharks, but even that is a bit of a guess right now. Much will depend on how much progress Richards makes this week and how the wrist responds to being pushed on days like today. I guess the bottom line for me is that even if he waits to return March 24 at home against Vancouver (the Stars have two days off after the San Jose game), that's still a week earlier than anticipated.
I think the team and Richards want to keep that in mind when assessing his ability. If he plays Saturday, that's great. If he doesn't, it shouldn't be seen as a disappointment. _Mike Heika