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Morning Skate: Richardson's Solid Play Began at Anaheim

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Richardson's hot streak began when the Kings last played at Anaheim.
ANAHEIM – Before the seventh minute of the second period of the Kings’ 28th game, nobody saw seen it coming. Who could have predicted Brad Richardson’s breakout?

Richardson had played for two months and not recorded a point. Then, in the second period of the Kings’ Dec. 1 game at Anaheim, Richardson got an assist. Then, shockingly, he scored the game-winning goal in the third period.

In the locker room, teammates joked with Richardson when he found himself surrounded by reporters. Then something funny happened. Richardson scored a goal in the next game. And the game after that. Before long, he was the Kings’ first-line left winger.

It all started on that night in Anaheim, although for Terry Murray, it started a little earlier. Last season, Murray hadn’t seen fit to give Richardson much of a role. He didn’t see much in Richardson’s game that justified it. That changed this season, Murray said, right around the early-December time in which Richardson started scoring as well.

``That's when he started to show that he was the type of player he kept telling me he was,’’ Murray said. ``The confidence, the ability to check, be responsible and used in special teams, penalty killing in particular. And showing some skill level with the puck.

``He has played himself into the situation that he's in right now. He was never in my doghouse. It's just that I came in last year and we needed to change some things around, and everybody had to buy in, and he wasn't able to get the job done. Clearly, this year he has become an important player.’’

Richardson now has seven goals and 13 assists, all in his last 31 games.

Richardson had spent the past couple weeks on the Kings’ first line, but the Kings are expected to line up tonight the same way they finished Saturday’s game.

Anze Kopitar will center Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll will center Richardson and Wayne Simmonds, Michal Handzus will center Alexander Frolov and Scott Parse, and Oscar Moller will center Raitis Ivanans and Brandon Segal.

Davis Drewiske will be back in the Kings’ lineup tonight, when they face the Ducks, for the first time since Drewiske suffered a shoulder injury on Jan. 4 in San Jose.

Drewiske will replace Peter Harrold in the lineup and partner with Jack Johnson.

``I'm excited to get back in,’’ Drewiske said. ``I'll just try to do my part. We've been on a good roll here, so I just have to keep it simple and take care of our own end, and hopefully we can keep winning.’’

Drewiske, at 6-foot-2, 222 pounds, is a big, stay-at-home defenseman whose style might fit well against what is generally a physical group of Ducks forwards.

``It's a different look, but he's been a pretty important player for us, before his injury, and it's just time to get him going again,’’ Murray said. ``He's working extremely hard in the practices, to get himself ready, and I feel he is there, so it's a big body against some big players. They're going to go to the net and hang out there. Whiskey is a big guy, and he's got to use his bulk and size in those areas of the game.’’

The Kings have already set a franchise record with their nine-game winning streak. The next record they might potentially top is for most consecutive games with at least one point. The 1973-74 Kings went 9-0-2 in one stretch.

Two of the seven defensemen on Canada’s Olympic team, the Kings’ Drew Doughty and the Ducks’ Scott Niedermayer, will be on opposing sides tonight and then on the same side starting next week in Vancouver.

Niedermayer’s name is often brought up in discussions of the type of player that Doughty might become one day. This morning, Niedermayer was asked about his impressions of the Kings’ 20-year-old defenseman this season.

``I think the big thing is just that he's playing with a lot of confidence,’’ Niedermayer said. ``That goes a long way for anybody, whether you're a second-year guy or a 15-year guy. When you're playing with confidence and you feel like what you're going to do is going to work, good things are going to happen when you're at your best. Right now, that's how that whole team is, but he's playing with a lot of confidence right now.’’
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