Rangers' Brad Richards questionable to play after hit from Patrick Kaleta

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

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New York Rangers veteran center Brad Richards is being listed as questionable for Tuesday night's game against the Philadelphia Flyers after taking a rough spill into the boards on Sunday courtesy of a Patrick Kaleta cross-check.

You remember the hit: it earned Kaleta a five-game suspension. It could have potentially been worse if Richards hadn't returned to the game against the Sabres and finished it out. But now, after a day in between games, it's looking like Richards won't be playing for the Rangers.

Richards joined the team for its morning skate but left the ice after a short time. That came after he sat out practice on Monday. Add that to the fact that the Rangers recalled Michael Haley from AHL Connecticut, and you have a question mark surrounding Richards' availability.

With this, two thoughts come to mind. The first: is everybody convinced now that Richards wasn't faking it after the hit from Kaleta? I was a bit dumbfounded by the people suggesting he took a dive and/or was acting. What player is going to willingly throw themselves head first into the board and risk a serious injury just on the off chance that he'll draw a major penalty and get an opposing player suspended? It's an awfully dangerous play. I don't think you'll find any volunteers for that job.

Given the fact the NHL does determine the length of suspensions based on certain criteria that includes if a player was hurt, would this have incresed Kaleta's punishment? It's hard to say for sure. The league didn't request an in-person hearing with Kaleta, which would have opened him up to a suspension greater than five games. The NHL typically decides the punishment only after a hearing.

The second issue, and perhaps the more pressing one -- why did Richards return to Sunday night's game? It was one of the scarier collisions with the boards you're going to see, and the NHL has protocols in place to help protect players in case of the dreaded C word -- concussions.

I'm not saying that's what Richards has -- he very well could just be sore similar to how somebody is after a fender bender -- but it's more about how quickly the Rangers brought him back. If he did have a concussion, then it doesn't look so good on the Rangers. If he's just sore, well, it still doesn't look so good. It's better to be safe than sorry; that's why the league has set up protocols.

It's a bit reminiscent of the Gabriel Landeskog episode from earlier this season in Colorado. He took a hit from San Jose's Brad Stuart that resulted in a concussion, yet he returned later in that game and afterward said he was fine. It wasn't until a day later that he started to feel the real impact.

Richards hopefully is all right, and it is just some lingering soreness. They need him to be back as soon as possible because the Rangers are at a pretty critical stretch of the season in which they are looking to reach the top eight in the East.

Richards has certainly had a down season thus far with just two goals to go with 11 assists. Those 11 assists are a team high, though.

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