EL SEGUNDO, CA – Los Angeles Kings center Colin Fraser entered the dressing room after the team’s morning skate prior to their April 2 game against the Edmonton Oilers (Staples Center, 7:30 PM PDT), only to find his locker stall partially blocked by a throng of media talking to forward Brad Richardson, whose locker is right next to Fraser’s at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California, the team’s practice facility.
“You score two goals, and everyone wants to talk to you,” Fraser bellowed, in jest.
That’s right. Richardson, who had not played since March 9 at Detroit, and has been a healthy scratch for 14 out of 19 games since February 22, scored twice to lead the Kings in a 4-3 shootout loss at Minnesota on March 31, giving him five goals and two assists for seven points in 56 games this season.
Richardson’s last goal came on December 31, during a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at Staples Center.
Richardson has made the most of an opportunity to return to the lineup on after forward Jeff Carter went down with an ankle injury, which has been determined to be a deep bone bruise. He is listed as day-to-day, and is not expected to play tonight against Edmonton.
“[I got better results], personally [at Minnesota], but even in the Edmonton game [a 4-1 win at Edmonton on March 30], there were a bunch of chances that I had that I could’ve scored on, but [Oilers defenseman Andy] Sutton seemed to block the 15 shots that I tried to take,” Richardson lamented. “It was just one of those nights, but it went better in Minnesota.”
As stated earlier, Richardson has been on the outside looking in for quite awhile, and he admitted being quite frustrated with his situation.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “It’s something I don’t think any player wants to do, especially at this time of year, playoff time. This is the time that’s really fun. Everyone looks forward to this, so it’s definitely not fun, but it’s a chance to sit back and watch what’s going on, learn the game a bit, and workout hard. But it’s never easy.”
“Most of the time you end up [watching games] in the dressing room because you’re working out, and doing other things,” added Richardson. “There are some times when you can get out, and watch from up above.”
Despite the frustration, Richardson has been around long enough to be able to stay positive and not let his frustrations boil over.
“To be honest, at times, it’s not easy,” Richardson noted. “You always want to be in [the lineup]. It’s something you learn, as a pro, and as you get older. You have to stay positive, and you have to be a good teammate. You don’t want your teammates to see that you’re pissed off [about] not playing. You still have to show up at the rink, and have a positive attitude.”
“It’s never easy,” Richardson added. “I think, if anyone said it was, I think they’d be lying to you. There are times when I was pissed off, and wanted to be in there. But, when you come back, you try to be that much better.”
Head coach Darryl Sutter said that he had been thinking of getting Richardson back in the lineup for a little while prior to Carter going down.
“You have to make sure [players who are not playing regularly] are ready,” said Sutter. “Just because they’re not playing, the number one thing is that they have to practice as if they’re preparing to play. The next step, if they’re practicing like that, is to [get them] doing their routine on game day and game night—get’em into your warm-up.”
“The next thing is to get’em in your lineup,” added Sutter. “We talked to Brad about it—you know, he wasn’t very happy, and heck, I don’t blame him. When you’re not playing, you’d better not be happy, but you’d still better work your butt off in practice, and, if the coaches tell you to start preparing to play, then you have to go through that. You have to do that to reinforce that in your mind. That’s what he did.”
“We didn’t talk a ton, really, but I talked to [Sutter] during the stretch that I was out,” Richardson said. “He said that we’re looking to get you back in there, we’re just waiting for the opportunity. He put me in a couple of warm-ups before I got back in there to give me a chance to get in around the guys again, and feel like I’m getting my routine going again, stuff you kind of forget about when you’ve been out of the lineup for awhile. He just said, ‘go in there and do your thing. I know you can play on any line, so if it’s the fourth, or the first line, it doesn’t matter. We feel like you can contribute.’”
After playing on the third and fourth lines this season, Richardson now finds himself on the first line with right wing Dustin Brown and center Anze Kopitar.
“I’m looking forward to tonight, again,” said Richardson. “It’s fun playing with those guys. They’re very easy to play with. You just try to get open and work hard for them.”
“It’s nice to get back in there, think the game, and do other things, that, if you’re playing on the fourth line, you don’t really do,” added Richardson. “It’s a much different game, and it’s a lot more fun. You get to be more involved, offensively, playing with two, special players like that.”
When Sutter was preparing Richardson for his return to the lineup, he warned him that he might wind up on the first line. But he also made it clear now that he is back in the lineup, Richardson must contribute on the scoresheet.
“It’s interesting, because I told him, ‘when you go back in, you might be playing on our top line,’” Sutter explained. “That’s the way it works at this time of year, right? So, he went back in with Kopitar and Brown, and, before the Minnesota game, I asked him, ‘how many top chances did you have [at Edmonton the night before]?’ He said ‘three or four.’ I said, ‘not three or four. You had four. So you’ve got to score when you get those chances to play in there. Otherwise, you’re hurting our team.’”
“He could’ve had three [goals] in Minnesota,” Sutter elaborated. “If you ask him now, he’d say that he had two. But he should’ve had three. That’s how you’ve got to look at it. If you don’t, then you’re—OK is not OK. We’re trying to make the playoffs. We’re trying to make everybody get better. OK is not OK.”
Richardson knows that he has to step up his game if he expects to stay in the lineup, let alone on the top line.
“I’d like to stay on the first line, that’s for sure,” said Richardson. “I like playing on the first line better than the fourth line, no doubt. It’s good that the coach can trust you, whether it was Terry [Murray] or now, with Sutter. You can put me on any line, and feel comfortable. That’s what they’ve both said. That’s pretty positive.”
When asked about how Richardson’s versatility makes him an asset who can play on any line, Sutter responded with another challenge aimed directly at Richardson.
“He’d better be [ready to play any role in which he is needed],” Sutter stressed. “Otherwise, we’re at that time of year when kids with that same skill set are playing every other night [with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate].”
Raw Audio Interviews: Los Angeles Kings Morning Skate, April 2, 2012
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed)
Brad Richardson (3:12)
Darryl Sutter (6:18)
Tickets for the Kings’ upcoming home games against the Edmonton Oilers (April 2, 7:30 PM – Oilers vs. Kings), and for the Kings’s final home game of the regular season against the San Jose Sharks (April 5, 2012 – Sharks vs. Kings) as well as for potential playoffs games, are (or will be) available from Barry’s Tickets, an official partner of the Los Angeles Kings. Use the code, “Royalty010” to get a 10 percent discount on their “Best Value” tickets.
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