Los Angeles Hockey: Brad Richardson

Kings: 5 questions heading into 2012-13

June, 17, 2012

AP Photo/Louis Lopez/CSM
The biggest priority this summer is signing goalie Jonathan Quick to a long-term contract extension.
Coming off their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history, the Kings face many of the same questions most organizations do this time of year. Which players must they try to re-sign? Who can they afford to let go? In what areas do they need to bolster their roster? Here’s a look at five key questions heading into the offseason.

1. Can the Kings extend Quick? The biggest priority this summer is signing goalie Jonathan Quick to a long-term contract extension. Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL’s top player in the postseason, will be an unrestricted free agent a year from now. The Kings can begin negotiating an extension as soon as July 1. As the 25th-highest-paid goalie in the league last season at $1.7 million, look for Quick to earn something in the $7 million range, similar to that of the league’s highest-paid netminder, Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. Quick's roots are on the East Coast, however. If the Kings aren't able to lock him into an extension this summer, that may be an indication his heart remains elsewhere.

2. What to do with Penner, Stoll and Fraser? The contracts belonging to forwards Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser will expire this summer, leaving all three veterans as unrestricted free agents. Penner had a solid showing in the playoffs, but was virtually missing in action the rest of his time with the Kings. If they can knock a couple of million off the $4.25 million he made last season, he might be worth keeping around. Stoll’s offensive numbers dropped significantly after he was moved from the second line to the third line last season, but his attitude never wavered. He’s probably better suited for the third line at this stage of his career anyway, but most third-liners don’t make $3.4 million a season. Fraser, the team’s fourth-line center, might actually earn a raise off the $825,000 he made last season.

3. Can the Kings avoid the Stanley hangover? No team has repeated as Cup champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98. A number of factors are responsible for this trend, probably none bigger than the widespread parity that has developed within the league in recent years. In the past nine seasons, nine teams have raised the Cup. Another factor is the significantly shorter summer Cup champions experience after their title run, leaving them a bit slow out of the gate. The Kings have a couple of factors on their side: They remain one of the youngest teams in the league and won’t lose any of their key players to free agency.

4. Is this the last we’ve seen of Bernier? At least in a Kings’ uniform, that seems to be the case. A former 11th overall draft pick, Jonathan Bernier is one of the best backup goalies in the league, but he has made it clear he’d rather not wear that title. He wants to be a starter and, after starting just 42 games in the past four seasons, he’s more than ready to make that move. He’s looking at a nice raise from $975,000 last season to $1.525 million in 2012-13, the final year of his current contract. The Kings could get that number off the books via a trade, slot Martin Jones in as the backup and use that cap space to bring in a forward to fill the shoes of Penner or Stoll.

5. Who will make up the fourth line next season? The Kings suddenly have a surplus of fourth-line types on the roster. Assuming they re-sign Fraser, that leaves Jordan Nolan, Brad Richardson, Kyle Clifford, Kevin Westgarth and Andrei Loktionov battling it out for the final two spots. There’s also a few players ready to graduate from the minors, most notably bruiser Rich Clune, who signed a two-year contract extension last week. Loktionov could very well inherit Stoll’s third-line center position, since he doesn’t have the size to survive on the wing. Clifford and Nolan are signed to two-way contracts through next season, which could leave one of them starting out next season in Manchester.

Kings take Cup to Tao in Vegas

June, 15, 2012
KingsBrenton Ho/Powers ImagerySeveral of the Kings were in Las Vegas on Thursday night with the Stanley Cup.

The summer of Stanley has already begun as the Kings took their prized possession on the road -- outside the state at least -- for the first time since winning the NHL championship on Monday night.

Las Vegas was the destination as many Kings spent Thursday evening at Tao Nightclub, sharing the glory of the victory -- and the Stanley Cup -- with club-goers and fans.

Among the players in attendance were Trevor Lewis, Jeff Carter, Jarret Stoll, Brad Richardson, Drew Doughty, Mike Richards, Alec Martinez, Kyle Clifford, Willie Mitchell and Jordan Nolan.

The players took turns drinking champagne out of the Cup as those in crowd snapped photos.

Here are a few more photos from the evening's celebration:

Kings Stanley Cup in Las VegasBrenton Ho/Powers ImageryTao Nightclub in Las Vegas went all out in welcoming the Kings with the Stanley Cup.

KingsBrenton Ho/Powers ImageryThe Stanley Cup was the center of attention once again at Tao Nightclub in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Kings: Another opportunity to clinch arrives with Game 6

June, 11, 2012
Stanley Cup finals

Game 6 (Kings lead series, 3-2)

Kings vs. New Jersey Devils at Staples Center, 5 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Clock is ticking – So close has been Lord Stanley’s Cup the past two games, the Kings could almost see it, nearly touch it and practically feel the tradition reverberating from its sterling silver. But the Devils didn’t roll over in Game 4, and then pushed back a little more in Game 5, leaving L.A. still one win from raising its first Cup. Despite the luxury of having two more chances to win one more game, this has to be considered a Game 7 for the Kings. They want no part of a seventh game Wednesday in Newark, no matter how well they’ve played on the road. If they hope to stem this rising New Jersey tide, the Kings need to play their best game of the series.

2. Added demands – Only two members of the current Devils team were on the organization’s 2003 team, the last to win the Stanley Cup: goalie Martin Brodeur and forward Patrik Elias. But the entire squad seems to have developed a been there, done that attitude. New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer poked fun at the Kings after practice Sunday, saying the Devils had noticed a stream of limousines parked outside Staples Center prior to Game 4, just waiting to whisk the Kings to an after-party once they completed the sweep. Earlier in the day, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty admitted there were some outside distractions prior to Game 4. “We were nervous, worried about other things," he said. "All of us in the room were kind of frustrated that we were thinking about things ahead of time.” Doughty said coach Darryl Sutter vowed to make sure that wouldn’t happen again. No word if he confiscated their cellphones.

3. Mission in action – If the Kings hope to wrap up the Cup, they must squeeze more production from their top six forwards. The only member of that group who has played better as the series has rolled along is right wing Justin Williams. He scored goals in two of the past three games and rang the post twice as well. Dustin Brown was so ineffective down the stretch of Game 5 that he sat out the last five minutes, and their leading scorer in the playoffs, Anze Kopitar, hasn’t recorded a shot on goal the past two games. The only thing the second line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner has generated the past two games is more length to their beards.

4. Where’s Simon? – After missing nearly six months with a concussion, Simon Gagne has appeared in three straight games for the Kings. Sutter was hoping he would generate some offense in place of Brad Richardson, but so far he has recorded zero points. Even more telling for those who didn’t like the move in the first place, the Kings are 1-2 with Gagne in the lineup. He has the offensive skill of a top-six forward but is still limited to fourth-line minutes, Sutter said. Gagne took a few shifts with Kopitar and Williams late in Saturday night’s loss, but since stamina is still an issue, Sutter can only go with that look intermittently, leaving him to roll with three lines. It will be interesting to see how Sutter uses Gagne moving forward, if he uses him at all.

5. Quick response – The last time Jonathan Quick gave up a soft goal in the playoffs — a shot from the red line against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals — he came back with a shutout in Game 2. L.A. fans are hoping he responds with a similar effort after his mishap with the puck midway through the first period of Game 5 allowed the Devils to take a 1-0 lead in a game they eventually won 2-1. Quick has been phenomenal in these playoffs and will likely wrap up the Conn Smythe Trophy if he can put the Kings on his shoulders once more.

Simon Gagne steps in, feels comfortable

June, 4, 2012
Simon GagneHarry How/Getty ImagesSimon Gagne's return to the Kings was meaningful, as he hadn't played a game for L.A. since suffering a concussion on Dec. 26.

LOS ANGELES -- Though they've rarely trailed in their march to within one victory of their first Stanley Cup title, the Los Angeles Kings notched their greatest comeback of the postseason Monday night.

Simon Gagne played his first game for the Kings since Dec. 26, the day he suffered the latest concussion in his 12-year-career. His contributions were minimal in the 4-0 victory in Game 3 against the New Jersey Devils, but considerably meaningful.

“I worked hard to get back and play,” he said after the game. “I was not sure if I was going to play and just get back on the ice.”

Gagne is believed to have suffered three concussions in a five-month span as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2007-08 season. While playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, he missed parts of the playoffs because of another head injury.

On each occasion, he rushed himself back into the lineup. After he was injured the day after Christmas on a seemingly mild collision against the Phoenix Coyotes, he decided it was time to step back and let his brain completely heal.

“I was maybe 95 percent two months ago, but it was not good enough for me and the doctor and the team,” he said. “Maybe in the past, 95 percent, I was going to go back and play, and you never know what’s going to happen after that.”

Gagne didn’t begin practicing with the team until late May, and even then coach Darryl Sutter downplayed any chance of Gagne returning. Then after Game 2's victory Saturday night in New Jersey, Sutter tapped him on the shoulder and told him to get ready.

“After that, I didn’t talk to him until [Monday] morning,” Gagne said. “This morning, he said, 'Are you good to go?' And I said, 'Yeah, sure.' "

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Game 3: Kings 4, Devils 0

June, 4, 2012
Stanley Cup Final

Game 3 (Kings lead the series, 3-0)

Los Angeles Kings 4, New Jersey Devils 0

The good: Barring a historic comeback in this series, the Kings are well on their way to their first Stanley Cup title. They reached this point with perhaps their best all-around performance of the playoffs, getting a superb effort from their penalty-kill unit, another strong game from goalie Jonathan Quick and a pair of goals in the second and third periods.

Kings defenseman Alec Martinez put the Kings on the board first for the third time in this series, pouncing on Dwight King’s leftovers to notch his first career playoff goal. King shot the puck at New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur from the right circle, hitting him in the chest. King was right there for the rebound, shooting it off Brodeur’s right pad and getting in a couple more whacks before Martinez raced into the play and shoved it across the goal line. Brodeur thought the play should have been called dead, but he had no clue where to find the puck during the scramble. Martinez is the 17th member of the Kings to score a goal in this postseason.

While the first goal was a result of persistence and hard work, the second was pure skill. Justin Williams collected a stretch pass that banked off the boards and left it for a trailing Dustin Brown. He looked to his left and spotted Anze Kopitar with a step on the defense and skipped a pass in his direction. Kopitar took a swipe at the airborne puck and put it high in the net for a 2-0 lead with 4:53 left in the second period. It was the first two-goal lead for the Kings since Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

After six straight power plays by the Devils, the Kings finally got one of their own and showed New Jersey how it’s done. Willie Mitchell took a page out of Quick’s book and snagged a clearing pass with his glove at the blue line, set it down and the Kings resumed their attack. Mike Richards took the puck down low and then passed it out to his good buddy and roommate Jeff Carter just to the right of Brodeur. He put the rubber up high in the net for a 3-0 lead 4:15 into the third.

Just more than a minute later, the Kings went back on the power play. This time it was Williams jumping on his own rebound and putting it past Brodeur for their fourth goal in 20 shots.

The penalty kill was again outstanding for the Kings. They snuffed out all six man-advantage situations for New Jersey, including a five-on-three situation that lasted 60 seconds late in the first period. Kings defenseman Matt Greene came through with two blocks on Ilya Kovalchuk and Quick made pinball-lever save with his right pad to rob Zach Parise, who had received a pass on the far post.

The bad: Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

The in between: Sidelined since Dec. 26 because of a concussion, Kings left wing Simon Gagne made his first appearance of the postseason, taking the fourth-line spot of Brad Richardson. He finished with 11 shifts, 6:39 of ice time and three shots on goal. The Kings were hoping Gagne would breathe some life into the power play, but the Kings spent most of the first two periods killing penalties. Still, the Kings played their best game of the series and possibly the playoffs with Gagne in the lineup, so look for coach Darryl Sutter to stick with that lineup in Game 4 on Wednesday.

Kings: Road show ramps up for Game 2

June, 2, 2012

Stanley Cup Final

Game 2 (Kings lead the series, 1-0)

Kings vs. New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, 5 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Down this road before -- Nothing has been more well-documented during this postseason run than L.A.’s success on the road. Why stop now? The Kings bring an 11-game road winning streak into this game, winning all nine away from Staples Center in these playoffs, both NHL records. There’s no clear explanation for why the Kings have been so successful on the road, they’ve just continued to play very well over the last three months. You get the feeling they could win 10 straight on a frozen pond in Iceland right about now.

2. Two is better than one -- The Kings may not have played their absolute best in Game 2s during this playoff run, but they’ve had their best results. It began with Dustin Brown’s two short-handed goals in a 4-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks in the opening-round series, followed by a four-goal first-period outburst in a 5-2 win against the St. Louis Blues in Round 2. Jeff Carter backed that up with a hat trick in a 4-0 win against the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference final. Like in the past, look for Kings to set the tone in the first 10 minutes and counter any flurry by the Devils.

3. Stop-n-go -- Since the regular season ended April 7, the Kings have played just 15 games. Part of the reason is they’ve breezed through the first three rounds, another has been arena availability. The Kings had to spend an extra day in New Jersey because of a previously scheduled concert Friday night at Prudential Center. Both of L.A.’s losses in these playoffs have come after two-day breaks without travel in between, although both of those setbacks came at Staples Center.

4. More than just energy -- Coming into this series, much of the hype was focused on the production spilling from New Jersey’s fourth line. But it was L.A.’s energy line of Colin Fraser, Brad Richardson and Jordan Nolan that delivered the best overall effort of any line in Game 1. Fraser scored the first goal for the Kings, his first career playoff marker, Nolan set him with a nice pass from behind the net and contributed four hits and two takeaways, and Richardson was just a pest, screaming in on the forecheck and making life difficult for the Devils.

5. Star suppression -- The Kings did a fine job limiting Ilya Kovalchuk in Game 1. The team’s leading scorer in the regular season and playoffs had just one shot on goal in the 2-1 overtime loss and that didn’t arrive until early in the third period. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty received a lot of credit for getting in Kovalchuk’s way, but in reality he played only nine shifts against the speedy winger. The entire defense corps for the Kings deserves credit for keeping Kovalchuk under wraps, and you can bet he’ll be circled on their radar for Game 2.

Rapid Reaction: Game 1: Kings 2, Devils 1 (OT)

May, 30, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals

Game 1

Los Angeles Kings 2, New Jersey Devils 1 (OT)

The good: The Kings won their ninth straight road game of these playoffs and 11thoverall, thanks to a heady play by three of their best players. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty chipped the puck up the wall to Justin Williams, who drew both defensemen for the Devils. Williams flicked a backhand pass to Anze Kopitar, who was left alone in the middle of the ice. He reached to gather in the pass, went straight at New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur, stick handling the whole time. Brodeur bit hard, sprawling to the ice and leaving Kopitar room to drag the puck to his forehand and score his seventh goal of the postseason with 11:47 remaining in the overtime. … For the ninth time in this postseason, the Kings scored first, a good sign considering they won seven of the previous eight games when they drew first blood. The fourth line of Colin Fraser, Jordan Nolan and Brad Richardson was the best line all night for the Kings, and they came through midway through the first period. Richardson did most of the dirty work to keep the puck in the New Jersey end and Nolan picked it up from there, passing from behind the net to Fraser, who was camped in the slot. Fraser put the puck past Brodeur for a 1-0 lead and his first career playoff goal. The matchup of fourth liners was one of the keys to this series. The Devils came into the finals with nine goals from their fourth-line group, while the Kings had just two.

The bad: The Kings held the Devils without a shot on net for the first 14 minutes of the second period, giving them a huge window to add to their lead and really silent the Prudential Center crowd. Unfortunately, they’ve had a tendency to take their foot off the gas late in the second period in these playoffs, and New Jersey made them pay. The scoring play began with a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the point by New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made the stop, but the rebound hit Kings defenseman Slava Voynov as he battled to keep Patrik Elias from getting to the puck. The carom went straight into the goal with 1:12 left in the second period, tying the score, 1-1. Just before the play, Quick made his second sloppy turnover behind his own net, then laid on top of Devils forward Zach Parise before giving him an extra downward push and a taste of the ice. If Quick has any weaknesses in his game, it’s his puck-handling.

The in between: With 16:02 left in the third, a New Jersey goal was waived off by referee Dan O’Halloran after the puck had ricocheted through traffic to Parise on the opposite post. He had an open side of the net, but didn’t hit the puck cleanly, leading to a mad scramble. The puck didn’t appear to be completely secured by Quick, but the whistle had been blown before Parise tapped it across the goal line. … Kings forward Trevor Lewis took a hard lick in the second period and stumbled off the ice. He took a brief trip to the locker room for repairs, but was soon back on the third line. … Brodeur made the save of the game on Doughty with 7 minutes left in third. Mike Richards had room to work but decided to leave the puck for a trailing Doughty, who had time to take a couple strides closer to the net. Brodeur threw out a two-pad stack and stopped the shot.

Kings: Pressure builds as Stanley Cup finals begin

May, 30, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals

Game 1

Kings vs. New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, 5 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Not just another playoff game – If the moment hasn’t hit the Kings yet, it very well could some time today. L.A. breezed through the first three rounds of the playoffs like a sports car on the autobahn, barely noticing the competition as it sped by. With the realization that they’re now at the doorstep of the Holy Grail for only the second time in franchise history, will the Kings suddenly stiffen up and forget what got them here? The first period could be a clear indication. New Jersey has come out strong in these playoffs, scoring 23 of their 47 regulation goals in the first 20 minutes.

2. Big names, big games – Both sides have their share of stars on the roster, but who will step up on the biggest stage in hockey? It’s safe to say, based on the attention he received during Tuesday’s media session, that Kings second-line center Mike Richards is the most popular player on a North American scale. He’s Canadian, spent the first six years of his career playing on the East Coast for the Philadelphia Flyers, and now fits right into the Southern California fabric. Ilya Kovalchuk of the Devils may have something to say about stealing the limelight, however. He might be the most skilled player on the ice for both teams, though he’s not the media darling that Richards has become.

3. Young gun vs. old guard – The goalie matchup figures to take center stage right from the opening drop. Kings netminder Jonathan Quick has been the better player all season, but Martin Brodeur of the Devils has been here before… a few times. Both have stepped up their games in the postseason, but Quick is still a half goal better in the all-important goals-against column. At 40 years of age, will Brodeur’s reflexes stand up against the pressure of the Kings? He has played only one period against L.A. this season and that was back in October. Quick, on the other hand, is overdue for an off night. He hasn’t allowed more than three goals in a playoff game this spring and has given up two consecutive goals only twice in 14 playoff games. Those just happen to be the only two games the Kings lost.

4. On the road again – The Kings are on virgin ground when it comes to road success in the NHL playoffs. They’re the first team to win eight straight playoff games on the road to start the postseason and the first to win 10 straight overall. The Kings have won the first two games away from Staples Center in each of the first three rounds, and they’re starting out on the road once again. Like any record-breaking streak, it has to end some time. The Kings just hope it’s not tonight.

5. Lagging behind – After benefiting greatly from secondary scoring early in the postseason, the third and fourth lines for the Kings are a bit overdue. Jarret Stoll hasn’t scored since his overtime series-clinching goal in Game 5 against the Vancouver Canucks, and Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson haven’t scored since the opening-round series either. Jordan Nolan also has just one goal in the postseason, and fourth-line center Colin Fraser is still looking for his first. Dwight King has been phenomenal in the last two rounds, scoring five goals, but the Kings can’t expect a rookie to carry all the weight of the bottom six.

Kings: 5 things to know about Drew Doughty

May, 28, 2012
Name: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

Position: Defenseman

Height/Weight: 6 feet, 212 pounds.

Seasons with the Kings: 4

What’s his role? Doughty might be the most skilled player on the team. The Kings count on him for defense, of course, but he’s as much of a weapon on offense as any of the forwards. He’s a player who can rub an opponent off the puck in his own end, then snap a perfect clearing pass to a teammate 60 feet away. He can carry the puck into the neutral zone with speed, then use his powerful skating ability to weave through defenders and quick hands to get off a well-placed wrist shot. He hasn’t come close to matching his 16-goal, 59-point season from two years ago, and maybe never will, but he’s still better than 90 percent of the defensemen in the NHL.

What has he done lately? Doughty has been one of the keys in L.A.’s deep playoff run. He’s been especially strong in the three series-clinching victories, contributing a goal and three assists with a plus-5 rating. He made a smooth move to get below the goal line in Game 5 of the Vancouver series and made a perfect pass to Brad Richardson for the tying goal, allowing the Kings to clinch the opening-round series in overtime. He had a goal and two assists in Game 3 of the second-round series against the St. Louis Blues, his first three-point game of the season, then assisted on Dustin Brown’s game winner in Game 4 to complete the sweep. In Game 5 of the Western Conference final against the Phoenix Coyotes, he had a goal and an assist in the series-clinching overtime victory.

Where you’ll find him on the ice? Paired with Rob Scuderi on defense, Doughty spends most of the time defending his own net from the right side of the ice. When he sees daylight, however, he’ll make a push toward the opponent’s end, usually right up the gut. He sometimes gets in trouble when he ventures too deep and turns the puck over, but more often than not he makes the right decision. On the power play, Doughty mans the blue line, looking for a crack in the defense so he can slip the puck through with his thunderous slap shot.

What he does best? Nobody changes from defense to offense swifter than Doughty. He’s quick to recognize opportunities to join the rush, and confident enough to start one on his own. As one of the best skaters on the team, Doughty is very elusive with the puck, a skill set rarely seen in a young defenseman. Having him on the ice is like having a fourth forward.

Another comparable athlete? Like Doughty, Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays was a top-three draft pick who made his pro debut in 2008. Both set the bar very high early in their careers, producing their best offensive seasons in their sophomore years. Longoria is also similar to Doughty in that he's just as good on defense, winning Gold Gloves in 2009 and 2010. Attaining greatness so early can lead to lofty expectations, however. When they’ve failed to reach that bar in ensuing years, they've left the door wide open for criticism.

Kings: Brad Richardson brings the intangibles

May, 25, 2012
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- He buzzes around the ice like a flea in an opponent’s ear, racing from one end of the rink to the other, never seeming to back off or even slow down until he heads to the bench at the end of a shift.

Brad Richardson might be one of the most unsung members of the Los Angeles Kings, but he’s far from unnoticed.

As the Kings prepare for the Stanley Cup finals beginning next week against the winner of the New York Rangers-New Jersey Devils series, nearly every player has been part of a defining moment in these playoffs.

Some have been bigger than others. Richardson’s was huge.

After missing the first two games of the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks following an emergency appendectomy, he scored the tying goal in the third period of Game 5, allowing the Kings to eventually win in overtime and clinch the first-round series against the top-seeded team in the West.

Typically, his contributions as a fourth-line left wing fly much lower on the radar.

“He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s not afraid to go into dirty areas,” fourth-line center Colin Fraser said. “He’s not the guy putting guys into the third row, but he’s physical in the fact that he’s not afraid to be first on the puck.”

Richardson also brings an element of speed that’s more typical of a top-six forward. He combines that speed with the willingness to play rough, allowing him to quickly skate in on the forecheck and gain possession of the puck or disrupt the opponent’s clearing attempts.

Richardson said he’s willing to do anything to stay in the lineup.

“You’re always trying to improve and be at your best,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that can play, so you’re just trying to play well every time you get in there.”

Richardson has seen his playing time and role with the team fluctuate during his four years in L.A. He was a bottom-six forward for most of his first three seasons then was elevated to a top-line center role for the 2011 playoffs after a season-ending ankle injury to Anze Kopitar.

That line, with rookie Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds, turned out to be the most productive of the series.

With a Kopitar back this season, as well as the addition of Mike Richards and Fraser, the center position became extremely crowded, forcing Richardson to display his versatility as a winger.

Still, that wasn’t enough to keep him in the lineup on a consistent basis.

At one point in late February and into March, he was a healthy scratch in 14 of 19 games.

Richardson got another chance to show what he could do when Jeff Carter went down with a deep ankle bruise with five games left in the regular season. Richardson was reinserted on the top line with Kopitar and Dustin Brown and in his second game scored two goals in a 4-3 shootout loss in Minnesota.

Richardson appeared to have a tight hold on a fourth-line spot heading into the playoffs, but he had been bothered with stomach pains in the days leading up to the first-round series with the Canucks. His mother, a registered nurse who just happened to be visiting at the time, recommended he visit a doctor who discovered he needed an appendectomy.

By the time he was set to return, Richardson may have been the odd-man out again, but another spot opened up on the fourth line when Clifford suffered a concussion in Game 1 against the Canucks.

While Clifford was on the mend, Richardson took the opportunity to show what he could provide in a fourth-line role, and his goal against the Canucks in Game 5 was the type of contribution that usually keeps a player in the lineup.

Even when Fraser returned home to be with his then-ill 19-month-old son and missed Games 2 and 3 of the Western Conference finals, giving Clifford an opportunity to return to the lineup, Richardson remained on the fourth line when Fraser returned, leaving Clifford on the list of healthy scratches.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Richardson has one tangible that Clifford does not.

“Cliffy is probably the youngest player in our room, and experience is a big part of it,” Sutter said.

This is Richardson’s fifth trip to the postseason. The Kings lost in the first round the past two years, and he was twice swept in the second round while a member of the Colorado Avalanche from 2005-08.

He won't forget this experience, even when he's old and grey.

“It’s really nice to get this far, and get a chance to play for what we all dreamed about,” he said.

Kings chasing history heading into Game 4 vs. Coyotes

May, 20, 2012
Western Conference final

Game 4 (Kings lead series, 3-0)

Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center, noon

Five storylines to track:

1. Record pace – This isn’t just an L.A. thing anymore. The Kings have gone international. Not just because the world-class Amgen Tour of Southern California bike race will come skidding to a halt outside Staples Center as hockey fans are pouring in, but because no one has seen anything like the playoff run the King have strung together. They’ve won eight straight playoff games and 11 of 12 overall, leaving them one win shy of the Stanley Cup finals. Since the first round of the playoffs was stretched to best-of-seven in the 1987 season, no team has reached the finals in less than 14 games. The Kings would become the first if they can wrap up the sweep against the Coyotes.

2. Not as hot – The only major professional sports team that’s hotter than the Kings right now is the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA, who have won 17 consecutive games, including all seven in the playoffs. Interestingly enough, the Spurs are scheduled to play inside Staples Center later Sunday night, when they’ll try to finish a second-round sweep against the Los Angeles Clippers. Like the Kings, the Spurs got hot in the weeks leading up to the playoffs and built on that momentum. Unlike the Kings, the Spurs have won multiple championships.

3. Hot n’ cold – Special teams continue to be a mixed bag for the Kings. They’ve scored just six power-play goals in 64 man-advantage situations in the playoffs, well below their dismal regular-season average. On the positive side, they haven’t allowed a power-play goal since Game 5 of the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks. They’ve allowed just three power-play goals in all. What's more impressive, they’ve scored four shorthanded goals to put them at plus-1 on the penalty kill.

4. Fraser returns – After missing Games 2 and 3 for a family matter, it appears Colin Fraser will return to the lineup. Fraser, who has been a fixture on the fourth line since returning from injury last fall, practiced with the team Saturday. It should be interesting who’s the odd man out. Kyle Clifford had replaced Fraser the last two games, but Clifford was also a regular fourth liner before suffering a concussion in the first game of the playoffs, causing him to miss the next nine. Brad Richardson and rookie Jordan Nolan would be the other likely options.

5. Hanzal returns – The arrival of Game 4 means the return of Phoenix center Martin Hanzal. He was suspended for Game 3 for his boarding penalty on Dustin Brown in Game 2. Hanzal will certainly add another dimension to the Coyotes’ forward group, but the Kings have seen top players come and go for Vancouver and St. Louis as well, and it hasn’t changed their mindset. They wait for coach Darryl Sutter to send them over the wall and play against whomever's on the ice at time. They simply focus on their role and let everything else take care of itself.

Kings looking for repeat performance in Game 2

May, 15, 2012

Western Conference finals

Game 2 (Kings lead series, 1-0)

Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena, 6 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Just getting started – The Kings have won the opening game in the first three rounds of this postseason, and each time the opponent vowed to be more assertive in the second game. Well, the Kings have outscored their previous two opponents by a combined score of 5-0 in the first period of Game 2, scoring two goals while shorthanded. The Kings are a confident, confident group right now, and the Coyotes will need to do more than just try harder if they want to slow down this runaway locomotive.

LOSPHO2. Road warriors – The Kings have won all six road games in these playoffs, eight straight postseason games away from Staples Center overall and four straight Game 2s on the road dating back to 2010. Only one other team in NHL history has won nine straight road games in the playoffs, the New York Islanders in 1982-83. The Kings have become so focused on their play that they seem to forget whether they’re playing at home or on the road. When a team is that locked in, it’s no surprise they’re playing so well.

3. Line mismatch – The Coyotes had no answer for the Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown-Justin Williams line. None. Not only did they combine for two goals and two assists in Game 1, but they did a great job of playing keep away with the puck, and as soon as they lost it to Phoenix, they usually swiped it right back. The Coyotes tried to counter the Kopitar line with their own No. 1 group of Martin Hanzal, Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata, but they had no chance. Even after Phoenix coach Dave Tippett juggled his line combinations late in the game, they didn’t have much of an answer for the KBW line.

4. Surprise, surprise – Kings goalie Jonathan Quick gave up the softest goal of the playoffs, and possibly his career, when Derek Morris scored from the red line late in the first period to tie the score, 1-1. The Kings were dominating the first period and out-shooting the Coyotes, 13-3, just before the goal. If Quick has an Achilles heel, it’s his tendency to get complacent when not facing a lot of shots. That said, expect Quick to be extra focused from start to finish in Game 2 and give the Kings every chance to win another game.

5. Saving face – The referees were throwing players out of the faceoff circle right and left in Game 1, which could leave teams at a disadvantage if they don’t have another capable option on the ice. Good thing for the Kings, their roster is loaded with centers who can step in and do the job. Brad Richardson was called upon after Colin Fraser got tossed, and he came through by winning all four of his draws. Jeff Carter had to step in when Mike Richards was asked to leave, and he went 2-0 on the drop. It’s that type of depth that’s serving the Kings well in all phases of these playoffs.

Kings: Third-round playoff primer

May, 8, 2012


Opponent: Phoenix Coyotes

Regular-season records: Kings, 40-27-15, 95 points (8th in the Western Conference); Coyotes, 42-27-13, 97 points (3rd in the Western Conference)

Playoff schedule: TBA

Previous meetings this season:

Oct. 20 at Jobing.com Arena -- Kings 2, Coyotes 0

Playing in front of an announced crowd of 7,128, about 10,000 fewer than showed up for the Coyotes' series-clinching win Monday night in Phoenix, Jonathan Quick stopped 28 shots for the second of a franchise-record three consecutive shutouts. The win also represented the 100th of his career. Dustin Brown gave the Kings a 1-0 lead with a second-period power-play goal, and Kyle Clifford made it 2-0 later in the period off a centering pass from Kevin Westgarth. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty did not play for the second straight game after injuring his shoulder against the Flyers.

Oct. 29 at Jobing.com Arena -- Coyotes 3, Kings 2 (OT)

Doughty returned from a five-game absence because of the shoulder injury but wasn’t a factor as Daymond Langkow scored with 44 seconds left in overtime after his shot deflected off the stick of now-departed Kings defenseman Jack Johnson. The Kings began overtime with 1:46 remaining on a power play but couldn’t capitalize. Mike Richards had provided the Kings a 1-0 lead early in the second period, and Anze Kopitar tied the score at 2-2 with 6:30 left in regulation, ending a nine-game goal-less streak against the Coyotes, his longest against any team in the NHL.

Dec. 26 at Staples Center -- Kings, 4, Coyotes 3

By the time these teams met again, the Kings had a new coach behind the bench in Darryl Sutter. This game was memorable for a few reasons. The Kings scored more than two goals for the first time in 15 games, Simon Gagne suffered a season-ending concussion and Rob Scuderi scored his only goal of the season four minutes into the game to give the Kings a 1-0 lead. Willie Mitchell and Brad Richardson also scored rare goals for the Kings before Brown notched his ninth of the season, which turned out to be the game winner. Phoenix defenseman Raffi Torres, currently serving a 25-game suspension for an illegal hit in the first round of the playoffs, scored two goals for the Coyotes.

Jan. 5 at Staples Center -- Kings 1, Coyotes 0 (OT)

Quick had another Vezina Trophy-caliber performance, outdueling Phoenix goalie Mike Smith for his sixth shutout of the season. Doughty scored a controversial goal in overtime after banking a shot off the skate of Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson as Johnson stood in the crease. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett and team captain Shane Doan complained vigorously to reporters after the game, saying Johnson had interfered with Smith on Doughty's goal.

Feb. 16 at Staples Center -- Coyotes 1, Kings 0

Tempers flared early as Brown laid out Phoenix defenseman Rostislav Klesla four-and-a-half minutes into the game, leading to a fight with Doan a few minutes later. Klesla ended up missing three weeks with an upper-body injury. Richards later fought Martin Hanzal, and Colin Fraser completed the fight-filled first period by scrapping with Torres. Radim Vrbata ended up scoring the game’s only goal with four minutes left in the second period. Vrbata had five goals against the Kings this season, the most against any team.

Feb. 21 at Jobing.com Arena -- Coyotes 5, Kings 4 (SO)

In perhaps the lowest stretch of the season for the Kings, they let a two-goal second-period lead slip away and lost for the third straight game. After getting shut out in the previous two losses, the Kings figured they were back on track after scoring three unanswered goals in the opening period. Even when the Coyotes cut the deficit to one, the Kings answered with a goal by Justin Williams with just over eight minutes left in the second period. But the Coyotes got one back on a goal by Doan, and Vrbata tied the score with two-and-a-half minutes left in regulation on his team's third power-play goal of the game, giving Phoenix a chance to win in the shootout.

Playoff fact: The Kings and Coyotes, formerly the Winnipeg Jets, have never met in the postseason.

Kings: How they got from there to here

May, 2, 2012
Dustin PennerRich Lam/Getty ImagesDustin Penner's resurgence has been one of many reasons the Kings find themselves where they are.

EL SEGUNDO -- Forget trying to put a finger on what turned this season around. You won't have enough hands.

One of the favorites to finish high in the Western Conference standings coming into the season, with a roster full of skill, youth and experience, the Los Angeles Kings were underachievers almost from the start.

Well, except for goalie Jonathan Quick.

They fired coach Terry Murray in mid-December, during a stretch in which they didn’t score more than two goals in any of 14 straight games, and brought in a more leathery figure in Darryl Sutter.

He got the Kings to stand up straight all right, but still couldn’t coax the players to put the puck in the net. Over the next two months, the offense continued to languish at the bottom of the league in scoring, averaging little more than two goals a game.

Just as the trade deadline came and went in late February, the Kings suddenly turned a corner, finishing 13-5-3 and averaging just over three goals a game to sneak into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. Not what many envisioned coming into the season, but part of the postseason, nonetheless.

They hit the reset button and came out motivated, healthy and ready for the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks, won the first two games in Vancouver and upset the President Trophy winners in five games.

(Read full post)

Kings: Darryl Sutter rolls with lines from Game 5 victory

April, 24, 2012

EL SEGUNDO -- Call it the been-there-done-that line.

In his first practice since the Kings clinched the opening-round playoff series Sunday in Vancouver, coach Darryl Sutter stuck with the forward lines that got him there.

That meant rookie Dwight King was still playing left wing on the third line with center Jarret Stoll, who scored the overtime winner in Game 5 against the Canucks, and right wing Trevor Lewis, who forced the turnover that set the series-clinching play in motion.

It also meant Dustin Penner was still playing left wing on the second line with center Mike Richards and his other wingmate, Jeff Carter.

The trio combined for just two goals in the series against the Canucks, compared to four for the unlikely combination of Stoll, Lewis and Brad Richardson, but their postseason experience and scoring potential is unmatched among the other Western Conference playoff teams.

Penner, Richards and Carter have appeared in a combined 165 playoff games, winning 91. They have one Stanley Cup title between them, two other finals appearance and 38 playoff goals.

“What Richey brings and what Carts brings and what I bring, it’s all something that has the blueprints for success,” Penner said after practice Tuesday at Toyota Sports Center. “It’s just a matter of putting the pen to paper.”

The other angle to the move is Sutter's decision to ride the hot hand of Stoll, Lewis and King, who was taken off the second line in Game 5 to help drum up some offense. The Kings had scored only two goals between the start of Game 3 and the beginning of the third period in Game 5.

Richardson tied the score, 1-1, early in third third period of Game 5 to get the game into overtime. That's when Lewis poked the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis about four minutes in, allowing Stoll and King to break losse on a 2-on-1. Stoll hit the back of the net with a wrist shot and the Kings won their first playoff series in 11 years, advancing to play the St. Louis Blues in the second round.

“We’re lucky that we have guys that can play everywhere,” Sutter said. “We’ll keep trying to find stuff that works, like we did in Vancouver.”

On another note, fourth-line winger Kyle Clifford skated after practice, but doesn't appear close to returning. He banged his head on the glass after a hard hit by Byron Bitz in Game 1 in Vancouver and hasn’t played since. Sutter didn’t have an update on his condition. Andrei Loktionov replaced Clifford in the lineup for Games 2 and 3, and Richardson then replaced Loktionov after missing the first three games following an emergency appendectomy.