Cross Checks: Brad Richardson

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Both the Kings and Sharks were mulling lineup decisions Tuesday morning after the pregame skates.

For Los Angeles, coach Darryl Sutter would not confirm whether winger Kyle Clifford would return for Game 4 on Tuesday night.

“There hasn’t been any announcement that I’m aware of that he’s coming back,” Sutter said when asked about Clifford.

Clifford, who has been out since May 8 with an undisclosed injury, skated on a line with Colin Fraser and Brad Richardson in practice Monday and sounded afterward like he thought he was playing.

But this is the playoffs, and gamesmanship with lineups is a daily activity.

On defense, veteran Matt Greene -- who played in only five games in the regular season after missing two months recovering from back surgery -- hasn’t played in the postseason, although he did take warm-ups before Game 3.

Sutter was asked Tuesday morning what it would take for him to feel comfortable playing Greene, who was a key last spring in the Kings’ Cup run.

“We had him in warm-up the other night, and that’s the direction you go,” Sutter said. “Practice, contact, game-day skates, warm-up, that’s always what you try and do. You’re more inclined with veteran guys ... there’s young guys that you have to push; the difference between injured and hurt, that’s something you have to explain sometimes. But with the older guys, the veterans, guys that you trust, there’s a point where they make that decision because they know what it takes.”

For San Jose, the re-injured Martin Havlat and the suspended Raffi Torres leave the Sharks with few options for their lineup ahead of Game 4.

Expect Tim Kennedy as a fourth-line center or Jason Demers as a seventh defenseman/fourth-line winger. The latter seems more likely.

“Still an option for us,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We can put Demers in and play him both at forward and the back end, and rotate him around. That would allow us to maybe overplay or use someone else on the fourth line a little bit more, whether it’s Jumbo or Patty or whoever it might be. So it’s certainly an option.”

Demers said Tuesday morning that he was told by the coaching staff simply to be “ready” in case he gets the call. Demers did play some forward three years ago in the conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, so it’s not foreign to him.

But McLellan dismissed the notion that because the Sharks have had success with Brent Burns moving from defense to forward, perhaps they can get lucky with Demers as well.

“No, it’s two completely different cases,” McLellan said. “We can’t get into making this a habit. Burnsy has played there before, he’s played well there before. Jason has played up in some games when we’ve needed forwards, but Burnsy is a separate case, a special case.”

Quick contact

Sutter on Monday said he had some concern that his goaltender came into more contact with opposing players in Game 3 than did San Jose’s goalie.

That’s a veteran coach’s way of getting the attention of referees before Game 4, hoping officials will call goalie interference when applicable.

“He plays on top of the crease,” Sutter said Tuesday of Quick when asked about his concerns. “I’m not whining or bitching or anything, but it’s just that he plays on the top of the crease, and the last two series we play against goalies who play more in the blue paint. So, what is the rule?”

The Sharks absolutely want to continue to get into Jonathan Quick’s face as much as possible.

“Within the rules, you want to get into his way,” Sharks winger T.J. Galiardi said. “I think with him, he wants to come out to the ringette line. If he comes out that far, I wish he was fair game. That would be great if that’s how it worked because he’s out all the time. He’s doing just as much as we are, little jabs here and there. He gave his blocker to the face of Burnsy. ... But we’re going to get in there. You can’t let him be comfortable."

Kopitar line

Sutter on Sunday essentially called out his top line, saying the Kings needed more production from Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams.

“We know that,” Kopitar said Tuesday morning. “We take pride in our production and our game and it’s not to a level where we need to be. We’re going to have to crank it up.”

LOS ANGELES -- The Raffi Torres-Jarret Stoll hit seems to have had a bigger impact on the Sharks' lineup than the Kings in terms of line juggling.

While the Kings will insert center Brad Richardson straight up as a replacement for the injured Stoll on the third line, with no other parts changing in the lineup, the Sharks shuffled the deck Thursday in the wake of Torres' pending suspension:

Joe Pavelski moved from his third-line center spot to the wing on Logan Couture's line with Patrick Marleau.
Scott Gomez moves up from the fourth line to the third-line center spot.
• Left winger Andrew Desjardins moves down from the third line to the fourth line.
• Left winger James Sheppard moves up from the fourth line to the third line.
Tim Kennedy, healthy scratch in Game 1, is inserted into the lineup as the fourth-line center.

Only Joe Thornton’s line remains intact from Game 1. The forward lines at Thursday’s morning skate:

T.J. Galiardi-Thornton-Brent Burns
Sheppard-Gomez-Tommy Wingels
Desjardins-Kennedy-Bracken Kearns

The key move here is Pavelski moving up from No. 3 center to wing on the Couture line. While it improves San Jose’s offensive punch in the top six, it also removes the luxury of having such a talented player on the third line.

"We discussed a lot of different options," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the morning skate. "And I don’t know if this is written in stone by any means. But we have to start somewhere and see where it goes. The majority of the scoring for the Kings in the playoffs have come from their top two lines. We like Pav there (on Couture’s line), he's a responsible two-way guy and he has the ability to help out in the faceoff circle against a (Anze) Kopitar or a (Mike) Richards."

Few elite players in the NHL have bounced around from center to wing more than Pavelski over the years. But he says he's fine with it.

"That was a nice stretch playing center, no doubt," Pavelski said of anchoring the third line for a while. "But to be back up with those guys is exciting, it's fun to play with them. Wing, center, it doesn't matter; I'm going to get to take faceoffs and if I'm the first guy back (in the defensive zone) I'll take that center position."

Richardson is ready
As expected, Richardson replaced the injured Stoll in the Kings lineup, and on the same line. He skated between Dustin Penner and Trevor Lewis on the third line at the morning skate Thursday.

"I've been in this situation before so it's nothing new," Richardson said after the morning skate Thursday. "Stolly is a great player for us, I'm not trying to be him, I'm just going to play my game."

Richardson played the playoff opener in St. Louis but was replaced by Colin Fraser and hasn't played since. He appeared in 13 playoff games last spring, so he's a guy the Kings trust when they need him.

"He's played a good role for us, not always one that he's happy about because you're not using him all the time," Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said Thursday morning. "He prefers to play center. That's one thing him and I have talked about, he prefers to play center. He came into the NHL as a centerman."

The Kings' forward lines from the Thursday morning skate:

Dustin Brown-Kopitar-Justin Williams
Dwight King-Richards-Jeff Carter
Jordan Nolan-Colin Fraser-Tyler Toffoli

Kings dealing with injuries
A year ago, nearly as impressive as the manner in which the Kings steamrolled everyone to a Cup was the fact their lineup barely ever changed.

They were incredibly healthy, using the same six defensemen the entire playoffs, and all their key forwards were also healthy throughout.

Already this year it's different, with no Willie Mitchell for the entire season, Matt Greene barely playing, and Stoll now out. Not the same script at all.

"It's definitely different, but we're still happy with the team we have out here," star Kings blueliner Drew Doughty said Thursday morning. "The guys that have had to step in for those players have done a great job so far. Tonight, Richardson is coming in, he plays very similar to Stolly, he's a good two-way centerman, works hard and he’s going to bang bodies. So we’re happy with the team we got. I know we can overcome these things. The team that’s still in here can do it."

Sutter pointed to the lockout-shortened season and compact schedule as a factor.

"The 48-game game schedule tested everybody's depth for sure," said Sutter. "Everybody that’s still playing, (depth) is probably the reason. The schedule and the travel, you had to use everybody and put guys in situations. This just continues that."

The other difference is how rested the Kings were a year ago. They played short series and got lots of time between rounds to rest up. This year, they were physically tested and pushed to six games by a rugged St. Louis Blues squad, and the league is now trying to cram four playoff rounds into a shorter time frame.

That has an impact as well.

"You watch other series -- that Detroit-Chicago game last night, Detroit played a helluva game but in the end one team had a little more in the tank," said Sutter. "And Babs (Wings coach Mike Babcock) said, too, 'The day before we weren't very good in practice, either, we just went through a tough series and a lot of travel.' They're not machines, they're people, and we always forget about that."

LOS ANGELES -- It’s not just one hit. It's a Raffi Torres hit.

And that’s why it takes on a whole different meaning, for better or for worse.

Torres faces a disciplinary hearing in New York on Thursday after knocking Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll out of Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals with a hard hit, and is suspended pending the outcome.

If this had been Joe Pavelski leveling Stoll with the same hit, you wonder if there would even be a hearing.

But it wasn't Pavelski. It was Torres, a repeat offender with a reputation cemented once and for all last spring when he crushed Chicago Blackhawks star Marian Hossa in the first round of the playoffs.

"Questionable," Kings forward Dustin Penner said Wednesday when asked about the Torres hit on Stoll. "Tough position, I think everybody knows the player [Torres], when the player's not suspecting you to hit him. It's not the first time a hit like that's happened."

Kings head coach Darryl Sutter called the hit "careless."

"It's just frustrating to see that, that's all," he later added.

Predictably, both teams have vastly different views on the hit. The Sharks don’t even think it merited the penalty Torres was assessed Tuesday night.

"We kind of questioned the call of a charging penalty, to be honest with you, so we were kind of shocked today to hear he has to fly to New York for the hearing, because we didn't see anything wrong on the play," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said Wednesday.

"It's unfortunate Jarret was hurt, but we just thought it was a clean hit," added Thornton. "We even saw it again today and we thought it was a clean hit."

The NHL obviously disagrees. For one, I think the league believes the head was the principal point of contact, and surely it also doesn't like the path Torres took to the hit.

More than anything though, this is about a player with a reputation.

Otherwise, I’m not sure this is even something the league looks at.

"I was on the ice, basically right beside it, and thought it was shoulder to shoulder, clean hit," said Sharks center Logan Couture. "Obviously, he was injured on the play so you hope the other guy is OK, but from what I saw, it was a clean hit.

"Right after the play happened, I was surprised there was even a penalty on the play because he didn't charge him. He was two feet away when he hit him. I think I looked back at the ref and was just shocked that there was a penalty."

Stoll was reaching for the puck and had his head down on the play, no question. But Rule 48 (illegal check to the head) protects a player whether he has his head up or not.

And that continues to be a debate in hockey circles.

"It almost seems like the player getting hit has no responsibility at all right now," said Thornton. "I think Jarret probably wasn't expecting to get hit, and it just looked like a clean hit. But it just seems the responsibility is on the hitter right now, not the receiver.

"The way I was brought up is to keep your head up," added Thornton. "When I was 6 years old, I was taught that."

Sound familiar? This was the same back-and-forth the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators had after Ottawa's Eric Gryba was suspended for leveling Montreal's Lars Eller, who had his head down on the play.

But Penner says that's not a fair comparison.

"I think that hit was fine," he said of the Gryba hit. "It’s a split-second decision. You guys can slow it down to .001 milliseconds, but you gotta make that hit. And this one, you don't have to make that hit, that's probably the difference."

And whereas the Gryba hit was the catalyst for an emotion-filled series, culminating in a line brawl in Ottawa in Game 3, the Kings insist they're not going to get drawn into that.

"I think we're clearly a team that's not going to lower ourselves to retribution," said Sutter. "That’s not going to come into play, that's zero. We talked about not taking retaliation or dumb penalties, that's not going to change."

"It's the playoffs, the best retribution is winning games right now," added Kings captain Dustin Brown.

These guys are the defending Stanley Cup champions for a reason.

"We're emotionally invested enough," said Penner. "We have a lot on the line. We want to defend our Stanley Cup, we're not going to go looking for bulletin-board material, we don't need that type of motivation."

Adding to the intrigue is that Torres and Stoll were good buddies during their time in Edmonton. Penner, who also played with Torres in Edmonton, wasn’t 100 percent sure, but he thought Stoll might have been in Torres' wedding party.

It just goes to show there are no friends on the ice during the playoffs.

In the meantime, the Kings will miss Stoll. The dependable No. 3 center is a clutch veteran.

"He's a really good player for us, he was a big part of winning the Stanley Cup, really good center man, guy who plays minutes, plays special teams, so obviously our player is a little more important than theirs," Sutter said in a subtle jab at Torres.

Asked how long Stoll might be out, Sutter responded:

"How long’s the series? He's day-to-day, but the series is seven games in 12 days. It's tough."

Center Brad Richardson figures to draw back into the lineup for the Kings.

"We have good options," said Sutter. "Brad's used to playing in our top nine, we'll figure that out."

The Stoll injury, however, further brings into focus how this season is different from last for the reigning Cup champions.

They were relatively injury-free last spring en route to the Cup, amazingly using the same six defensemen for every playoff game, and keeping their key forwards intact as well.

Already this year they lost blueliner Willie Mitchell for the season, Matt Greene hasn't come back after missing a couple of months recovering from back surgery, and now Stoll is gone.

"I've said a lot of times, that will never happen again to use the same six defensemen basically from trade deadline through the middle of June," said Sutter. "That'll never happen, it's impossible.

“But looking back on last year, we used different forwards, but we just mixed our top nine around -- they all played every game."

Four stars of the night...

October, 24, 2010
... Because three just wasn't enough.

Some nights are all about strong goaltending, but Saturday was not one of those nights. These four stars all found their way into the net on more than one occasion.

Henrik Zetterberg -- The Red Wings' center opened the scoring on the power play, tied the game in the third, assisted on the game winner and added another assist just for kicks. Zetterberg's four-point performance on a night the Wings had to rally past the Ducks is enough to outshine Pavel Datsyuk's winning score.

Brad Richardson -- At 25 years, 8 months, Richardson came up big all evening for the Kings with three goals against his old team. Richardson's tiebreaking short-handed tally late in the third period gave the Kings their fourth win in five games.

Alexander Semin -- Alex Ovechkin did nothing, the power play came up empty and the Caps won in overtime. How does that happen? Alexander Semin scores three goals. Semin, who had two goals in his first seven games, recorded his fourth career hat trick and his first since February.

John Tavares -- The No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft was all the Islanders' offense had going for it against the Panthers. Tavares had his first three-goal game in the NHL, but all didn't end well. "It doesn't mean a lot. We didn't get the two points," Tavares said after the loss.

Give us your four stars of the night »


Saturday's results