Los Angeles Hockey: Justin Pogge

Kings: More on the debut of Mike Richards (video)

September, 22, 2011

Playing for the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference the last six seasons, Southland hockey fans seldom had a chance to watch Mike Richards play in person.

It didn’t take long to see what they were missing.

Richards, traded to the Kings in the offseason, flashed his speed and skill from the moment he stepped on the ice Wednesday night in the exhibition home opener against the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center.

His first shift with Dustin Brown and Brad Richardson was a thing of beauty, as the trio cycled the puck back and forth, blasted away at Phoenix goalie Justin Pogge and then used their physical attributes to retrieve the puck and attack again.

“They set the tone on the second shift of the game,” Kings coach Terry Murray said.

Brown said he was pleased with the chemistry he quickly developed with Richards after just four days of practicing together.

“In practice, it’s tough because you don’t have the body contact,” Brown said. “A lot of the time we’re doing set plays where you’re chipping it in and working on structure more than creativity. In a game, you play the game and it unfolds how it unfolds. We had some grade A scoring chances, I don’t know how many, but I felt we had a good rhythm on the ice.”

Murray’s only complaint was the Richards line, and the team as a whole, couldn’t get the puck into the net during 5-on-5 play. Richards and Brown assisted on a power play goal by Slava Voynov in the second period, but that was the only goal in the 2-1 shootout loss.

“Some of the looks we had we were trying to be so fine that we were missing the net,” Murray said. “We probably had another 35 shots that were in pretty good scoring areas that were not getting it on the goal. We’re not getting enough traffic and I think that includes [the Richards] line that can really be a little more involved in creating in those hard areas in front of the net.”

The Richards should get even more skilled with the return of another offseason acquistion. Simon Gagne sat out Wednesday's preseason game with flu-like symptoms, but is expected rejoin Brown and Richards for Sunday's exhibition against the Ducks at Staples Center.

Kings: Six answers from the home exhibition opener

September, 21, 2011
Mike RichardsAndrew D. Bernstein/Getty ImagesMike Richards was impressive in his Kings exhibition debut, especially with his puck movement and passing.

LOS ANGELES -- The who, what, when, where, which, and hows of the Kings split-squad exhibition game Wednesday night against the visiting Coyotes at Staples Center.

Phoenix Coyotes 2, Kings 1 (SO)

How did the Kings score their goals? Viatcheslav Voynov tied the score, 1-1, with a power-play goal six minutes into the second period. Mike Richards flung a shot at the net with Dustin Brown providing a screen. The puck laid at Brown’s skates for a second before the rookie defenseman tapped it in near the left post. Brown scored the only goal of the shootout in four attempts by the Kings.

Who looked the sharpest? Kings fans must have had goose bumps watching Richards work the puck on his first shift as a member of the Kings. Acquired in a blockbuster trade with Philadelphia this summer, he had two shots on goal on his opening shift and the Kings pinned the Coyotes in their zone for a solid two-minute stretch. Richards glided from high to low on power plays, providing crisp movement of the rubber and pinpoint passing in tight areas. Fans should relish his contributions this season.

What line had the best chemistry? Have to stick with the Richards line again. He came out with Brown and Brad Richardson and they were a handful for Phoenix, buzzing the net, retrieving pucks in the corners and not afraid to throw their bodies around. As the game wore on they kept up the intensity, drawing several penalties along the way. Not a bad second line at all.

When were the Kings at their best? Through the first 26 minutes, the Kings out-shot the Coyotes, 24-5. Unfortunately, they only hit the back of the net once (that counted) during that stretch, keeping the score tied, 1-1. The other goal that crossed the goal line came off the stick of rookie defenseman Thomas Hickey during a five-minute power play in the opening period. However, the goal was disallowed on a goalie interference penalty on Kyle Clifford, one of four trips to penalty box for the second-year forward.

Where do the Kings need to improve based on this game? Despite the early flurry of shots, the Kings were unable to finish off several decent scoring chances. Through the first two periods, they were up against a goalie, Justin Pogge, who has seven NHL appearances on his resume, and those date back in 2008-09. Yet, the Kings could get just one shot past him (that counted) and that came on the power play.

Which rookie was most impressive? Voynov already took over Drew Doughty's locker stall this week and he might inherit his roster spot if Doughty continues to sit out training camp due to a contract dispute. Voynov handled one of Doughty’s spots on the ice as well, playing the point on the power play and showing good instincts when he dropped down low to tap in his goal. He was nearly as solid defensively, save for a couple rookie mistakes.