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Kings Notebook (Oct. 25)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Brad Richardson celebrates his first career hat trick on Saturday.  He will play on the top line against Minnesota tonight.
ST. PAUL -- Back-to-back hat tricks? Probably not, but the Kings are hoping that Brad Richardson will be able to carry over some of his offensive magic tonight against the Minnesota Wild.

Richardson recorded his first career hat trick in Saturday's victory over Colorado, and on Monday he was promoted to the Kings' first line, on left wing with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.

After alternating between the second and fourth lines for the first seven games of the season, Richardson will get a chance to play a high-profile role, as he did for parts of last season when Ryan Smyth missed time with an injury.

Richardson, who had 11 goals in 81 games last season, has developed a reputation as a hard-skating ``energy'' player, but he also has a nose for the net. Richardson, though, said he wouldn't attempt to play a different game simply by virtue of being in a higher-profile role.

``I'm not going to change a whole lot,'' Richardson said after Monday's morning skate. ``You get a few more chances offensively, obviously, with Kopi and Brownie, but it's the same game. Just work hard and try to get open for Kopi.''

Andrei Loktionov, whose spot Richardson will take on the first line, will move down to center the fourth line between rookie wingers Kyle Clifford and Kevin Westgarth.

Clifford returns to the lineup after a two-game absence as a healthy scratch and will replace rookie center Brayden Schenn, who will be a healthy scratch.

Schenn had an assist in each of his past two games, but coach Terry Murray said he needs to see more on the defensive part of Schenn's game.

``He's a young guy, 19 years old, who is going to be a real good hockey player,'' Murray said. ``We just need to continually pull him aside and talk to him about his shifts, reviewing the video and putting an emphasis on the checking part of the game. Whenever I talked to him, at the start of the year, we're talking about point production all the time, and that's where he's coming from as a player. To me, it's not that. Points will come.

``It's good to see your name on the score sheet when the game is over, but for Schenn right now, the important thing is understanding the checking part of it. The part of the game that we value greatly is play without the puck, and there are some issues, some areas of the game that he's breaking down, in our own D-zone coverage, so we'll go back and talk and do some practice and get him back in again.''

In the cases of Clifford and Schenn, the Kings must decide, after each player plays his ninth game, whether to return them to their junior team or keep them and burn a year from the NHL contract. Schenn has played six games and tonight will be Clifford's fourth game.

Matt Greene, who underwent shoulder surgery in July, played more than 21 minutes in his season debut Saturday, and Murray said he's hoping to extend Greene even more tonight.

With injured defenseman Drew Doughty still out of the lineup, Greene will be in an important role with partner Willie Mitchell, and the Kings were relieved to see that Greene had a strong game Saturday against Colorado and looks ready to handle a major role.

``That's one of those scenarios where you've been out and you're anxious to get going,'' Murray said. ``You're excited about playing and you come back and you pour everything into the game. I thought it was a very emotional game for him. He was very excited in the locker room and he played real heavy, with a lot of physical play and did a tremendous job.

``I think it was good for him to have the day off yesterday. You come back after that kind of an effort, and the next morning you're drained physically, and maybe even a little bit emotionally. So it was good for him just to back off and recover.''

The Kings' penalty kill has been strong this season, with an efficiency rate of 87.9 percent, but the Kings will face the top power-play unit in the league, at least in this early part of the season.

Minnesota has a 38.7-percent conversion rate on the power play, tops in the NHL, and in four home games, the Wild have scored an astounding 10 power-play goals in 19 chances.

``That's incredible,'' Murray said. ``I don't know if I've ever seen that high of a percentage before. We're going to have to be strong with the puck when we have an opportunity to clear the puck, because they are on it right away. They recover pucks as good as anybody in the league right now. And when the recover it, it's going right back to the net. There's no question. It's a shot mentality.''

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