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The Los Angeles Kings may have an ace, though the defending Stanley Cup champs don't know yet if it's considered low or high.
Mike Richards, who has been toiling with the team’s AHL affiliate in Manchester since the All-Star break, has been recalled by Los Angeles to help with the Kings’ final playoff push.
And with Jarret Stoll out with an ‘upper body’ injury, the Kings need any kind of NHL-level depth they can get. Richards had been in Los Angeles recently practicing and undergoing some sort of fitness testing.
And Richards effectively replaces Stoll per the LA Times:
"I told you we were probably going to bring him back at some point," Lombardi said in a telephone interview on Sunday. "Obviously with Stollie [Jarret Stoll] out too ... we wanted to do some things. We went through the process.
"I think it was always the thought we were going to bring him back at some point. Why not? You at least want to make all the tools available to the team right now. We're obviously up against it.
“He has been working hard,” Assistant General Manager Rob Blake said via email.
Richards was most recently seen at Toyota Sports Center in Los Angeles two weeks ago as he took part in private physical testing to establish a baseline for his conditioning, as hockey operations told LA Kings Insider at the time.
Los Angeles (11 games left) is two points behind Calgary for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Though LA has a game in hand, it’s two back in regulation and overtime wins.
Apparently, Richards was in the AHL for more off-ice stuff than on-ice training. Also from the LA Times:
Still, the Kings are just as interested in what Richards is doing in his off-ice workouts, given that the American Hockey League schedule affords more time to incorporate training.
"That'll come. The one thing is he plays a lot of minutes down there," Blake said. "He's in all situations, penalty kill, the power play. They use him and they want him to continue."
But when a team is struggling – the Kings are in a pretty dire playoff situation at the moment … you need to use all levers at your disposal. Still, Richards had just 14 points in the American Hockey League in 16 games. He notched 15 in 47 in the NHL this year.
This has obviously been a bad year for him all the way around. Is this a massive Dany Heatley like drop, or will we see some sort of newer, stronger Richards for the final playoff push after his conditioning stints out West? Los Angeles has its next five games on the road a place where they’re 12-14-7 on the season. They need Richards to step up in a big way. But again, can he? Richards is just 30, but his drop in production since he was a point-per-game player in 2008-09 has been massive and alarming.
This is why you create organizational depth. And this is where teams with tons of money can shine by stashing players like Richards – who makes over $5 million per-year – in the minors.
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