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Brad Richards scratched again tonight for Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp had three assists in the Blackhawks' 4-0 win over Toronto on Sunday. (AP Photo)

Brad Richards returned to the ice Tuesday morning for the Blackhawks, but won’t play in tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. With the three-day Christmas break looming, and the Hawks rolling, they’re taking a more conservative approach to his return from an upper-body injury that held him out Sunday night against Toronto.

Richards hopes to return Saturday in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche

“You always want to play, but [the] long-term picture is not tonight’s game,” Richards said. “The second half’s going to be busy. When we get back from this break, you’re refreshed. I fully plan on being ready to go.”

Richards said he felt “pretty good” after the morning skate.

In his absence, Kris Versteeg will again move to center on the second line with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane. Sharp will share some of the duties up the middle, as well. Sharp, who’s played almost exclusively on the left side since the 2010-11 season, had been playing on the right wing since his return from a knee injury two weeks ago.

“I think the way our system works, all three forwards need to be responsible, and any one of those guys could be back playing center in the D-zone,” Sharp said. “I’m ready if that happens, but throughout my career I’ve played every position. I’m comfortable doing it and feeling better as we go here.”

Sharp said that with two skilled, patient puck-handlers such as Versteeg and Kane, it’s easy to adapt to any role on the line.

“Makes it easy, yep,” he said. “Those guys are great at handling the puck and making plays. They hang on to it that extra half second longer than most players, sometimes longer than a half second. They really let the plays develop, so for me as a player that relies on my shot, [I can] get lost out there and pop up in a scoring area. Those two guys complement me well, I feel.”

Sharp has two goals and four assists in his seven games back, including a three-assist night in the 4-0 win over the Maple Leafs.

“I’m sure he’s excited about getting back on the left wing, and that line really seemed to click,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think we have some forwards that are adjustable as far as playing in multiple positions. [Versteeg] going to center, Sharp can play center. [Brandon Saad], as well, can probably do the same type of situations. We tried Kaner. It’s a nice situation. Based on health, sometimes based on production, you have to try certain things. We’ll see how it goes tonight, but it was a real good fit the other night.”

Corey Crawford will be in net for the Hawks. David Rundblad will be the sixth defenseman for the second straight night, with Tim Erixon a healthy scratch.


Twitter: @marklazerus