Before he became a Ranger, Brad Richards knew Henrik Lundqvist socially through their mutual friendship with Sean Avery, but the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Lightning didn't know Lundqvist at all as a goaltender or a competitor.

"I'd hung out with Hank a few times in New York and then with him and [former Dallas teammate] Loui Eriksson at last year's All-Star Game, and those were fun times, but I had no idea how intense he is," Richards told The Post yesterday.

"Early this year I made the mistake of trying to make conversation with him when he came into the locker room at 9:30 on a game day, and I learned pretty quickly not to do it again.