The ice was empty, the locker room, too, when Brad Richards walked in front of his stall.

"Obviously it was the wrong day to come back," the Rangers center joked, just before skating on his own, after missing the first three days of training camp with the flu.

Richards' return Wednesday came when the Rangers did not have a regular practice and held off-ice meetings and video work instead, but he was optimistic the illness had passed and even more confident his absences in an already-minuscule training camp would have little impact on the start of the season, two days away.

"Obviously I would've liked to have been here the last three days, but there's only so much you're gonna get out of practicing anyway," Richards said at the MSG Training Center. "It's just bad timing. You just miss being out there doing some game-situation stuff and working with my linemates. That's the biggest thing. In the big scheme of things, three days, when you look back on it is probably not gonna make a big difference."