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.