Stu Cowan: Canadiens’ Anthony Richard hopes to make name for himself

Forward from Trois-Rivières sets sights on sticking in NHL after promotion from Laval, where he was Rocket’s leading scorer.

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TEMPE, Ariz. — There are only three players in Canadiens history with the last name Richard who have played for the team.

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Anthony Richard became the third Monday night when he made his Canadiens debut in a 3-2 overtime win over the Arizona Coyotes at Mullett Arena.

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The first two Richards — of course — were the legendary brothers Maurice and Henri, who both became captain of the Canadiens and combined to win 19 Stanley Cups before entering the Hall of Fame and having their numbers — 9 and 16, respectively — retired. Henri holds the record for most Stanley Cups won by a player with 11.

Anthony, who wears no. 90, is not related to the Richard brothers.

“I wish, but no,” the Trois-Rivières native said with a grin after taking part in Monday’s morning skate at Mullett Arena, a day after he was called up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket.

Richard was leading the rocket in scoring with 18-13-31 totals in 27 games and the Canadiens are hoping he can add some offense to the team. He logged 10:38 of ice time against the Coyotes and had two shots and three hits.

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The Rocket were on a road trip in Cleveland last weekend and the players attended an NFL game Saturday, watching the Browns beat the Baltimore Ravens 13-3. After the Rocket players returned to their hotel, head coach Jean-François Houle told Richard that the Canadiens were calling him up.

“I had a great relationship with JF, so it was nice for both of us,” Richard said. “He pushed me a lot this year. It was a great call to get.”

The Nashville Predators selected Richard in the fourth round (100th overall) of the 2015 NHL draft after he posted 43-48-91 totals in 66 games the previous season with the QMJHL’s Val d’Or Foreurs. But Richard played only two games with the Predators and wondered if he’d ever play another game in the NHL.

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“You doubt if the opportunity is going to come,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I was able to play in the NHL. It was more, are you going to get another chance or another contract? It’s always like the next contract, the next team that’s looking at you. To get that opportunity last year in Tampa was huge for me. When I became a free agent and called Montreal, I thought it was the best fit for me and it seems to be the right one.”

Richard started last season with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals — the Predators’ farm team — and had 7-5-12 totals in 31 games before the Lightning acquired him and sent him to the Syracuse Crunch, where he had 10-16-26 totals in 40 games.

“My parents were a little bit nervous when I signed in Montreal because they know the market,” the winger said. “They know, even in Laval, there’s a lot of media that watch the games, so if you play bad there’s stuff said about you.

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“I always liked that kind of pressure,” added Richard, who turned 26 on Tuesday. “It gives me a little edge to play well. I told them a couple of weeks ago: ‘I told you guys I’m meant to play there,’ and I like to have a little chip on my shoulder to play well.”

Richard started Monday’s game on the fourth line with Jake Evans and Joel Armia and said he’s comfortable playing anywhere in the Canadiens’ lineup.

“I have two games,” he said. “If I play a little bit less, I’m a guy that’s going to be in your face, play well, play well in both zones and forecheck hard and go to the net. If I have any kind of opportunity on the power play or first line or second line or whatever, I know I can be that guy to score or play well offensively. If I play third or fourth line, I’ll make sure I bring some energy to the team.”

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Monday’s game in Arizona was the first of seven straight on the road for the Canadiens and Richard is hoping he can stick with the team long enough so that his parents can watch him play at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens’ next home game is Jan 5 against the New York Rangers.

Richard said seeing the famous Richard name on the back of a Canadiens sweater again was “awesome.”

“It’s my team,” he said Monday morning. “From when I started to play hockey, I wore the Montreal jersey when I was playing pond hockey outside. It will be a dream come true tonight to play my first NHL game with the Habs.

“My brother’s friend used to call me Maurice,” Richard added with a smile. “I was always the best player in my Trois-Rivières town. It was more a joke than anything. It’s funny, though. They texted me yesterday and they told me: ‘Finally, Maurice made it to the Habs.’

It will be interesting to see how long this Richard can stick around.

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