Richardson ready to return to Montreal, where he got his start coaching

Luke Richardson got his first taste of what it's like to be an NHL head coach in Montreal with the Canadiens organization.

And it was quite the meal.

In Game 3 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals, Canadiens' interim head coach, Dominique Ducharme tested positive for COVID-19 and had to quarantine.

Next up 52-year-old Richardson, who, while having experience on the AHL level, had never coached an NHL game before.

The Canadiens lost that game and went on to lose the series 4-1 to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I enjoyed my time there," Richardson said. "It's a great passionate city, much like this, with great sports fans. A lot of history there. I was fortunate enough to be there when we got to the Stanley Cup Finals and it was an honor to do that."

Now, the Blackhawks will face Richardson's old coaching stamping grounds on Friday, but things have changed quite a bit in the year-and-a-half since being with Montreal.

"It's now in the past, and it's a good memory," Richardson said, "but they're just another team we want to beat."

In his several months here, Richardson does reference his time spent in Montreal a bit. He'll bring up things the great Carey Price did/does, or certain things Shea Weber did when he was with the team.

He was around some great players in his time there, and even Max Domi, who was with Montreal from 2018-20, saw a little bit of his coaching prowess while there.

"I mean, Luke's the man, right?" Domi said. "You guys know that by now."

When Richardson signed with the Blackhawks as the 40th head coach in franchise history, word spread around about how good this coach could possibly be.

"Before I even met him," Jonathan Toews said. "I'd heard from older players that had played with him, guys that played for him in Montreal, tons of guys that had nothing but good things to say about him. They just told me we're going to love this guy."

So far, it appears that the team does. Toews and Patrick Kane and a slew of others have had nothing but positive comments about their new skipper.

Seth Jones described him as a "great communicator." Tyler Johnson said it's clear that he "really cares about the game and about his players and team." Toews praised his "calm presence" early on in the season. And several others emphasized how important it is that he has kept things "simple" for this relatively new team.

After playing defense in the NHL for 21 seasons, Richardson started his coaching career as an assistant with the Ottawa Senators. He made it to the playoffs twice in a couple years, and then he took the team's AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Senators, to a fourth-place finish in the AHL's Eastern Conference in his first year as head coach in 2012-13.

He came back to the NHL level as an assistant to New York with the Islanders, and after a year with that organization, he moved on to the Canadiens' assistant job.

Running the defense and the penalty kill were his primary jobs there, and Richardson mentioned their run in the playoffs as being a pivotal experience, especially in learning to match up lines, as that's more important in the postseason.

He praised Claude Julien, Ducharme and Martin St. Louis for putting trust in him to run the defense.

He's been around the league plenty, having played or coached with nine different NHL clubs, and that's exactly why his attitude is the way it is for Friday: it's just another team to beat.

"They play very offensive," Richardson said. "I'm not saying risky or gamble, but they're looking to be creative. That's the way Marty (St. Louis) played, and he wants his team to play like that. We need to be very hard defensively. "

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