In a victory for modern medicine, and for the will of a hockey player, Brad Richardson is on track to return to the Kings’ lineup Wednesday, just nine days after he underwent an emergency appendectomy.
Richardson has not appeared yet in this first-round playoff series against Vancouver, but by all indications, unless he suffers an unforeseen setback, Richardson will play in Game 4 at STAPLES Center, as the fourth-line left winger alongside center Colin Fraser and right winger Jordan Nolan.
The Kings, up 3-0 in the series, will look to close out the Canucks. Kyle Clifford remains out with an upper-body injury and Richardson will replace Andrei Loktionov, who filled Clifford’s spot in Game 3.
This is, in all reality, a best-case scenario for Richardson, who started experiencing mid-body pain 10 days ago, then underwent the appendectomy last Monday. Richardson was able to resume skating on Saturday and, after three days of conditioning drills, Richardson got cleared to resume full activity on Tuesday.
``I feel good,’’ Richardson said. ``I think I’ve skated three or four days, so I feel pretty good. Today was obviously the hardest I’ve went. I felt pretty good. I felt like I had my speed so, yeah, I’m ready to go.’’
Coach Darryl Sutter hopes Richardson will help restore some balance to the Kings’ lineup. Sutter prefers to roll four lines as much as possible, but in Games 2 and 3, the fourth line saw little ice time. In Game 3, Loktionov took only six shifts and had 3 minutes, 45 seconds, of ice time.
``We’ve used way too short of a bench,’’ Sutter said. ``Not too often do you get up three-nothing in a series with as short a bench as we have used.’’
Clifford has not been back on the ice since he was hit from behind by Vancouver’s Byron Bitz in Game 1.
TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED
Kings center Mike Richards knows, as well as anyone, not to take for granted a 3-0 series lead.
Two years ago, Richards played for the Philadelphia Flyers when they lost the first three games of a second-round series to the Boston Bruins. Simon Gagne -- now an injured King -- scored an overtime goal in Game 4 to keep the Flyers alive, and then they won Games 5, 6 and 7 to win the series.
It was only the third time in NHL history that a team has rallied from a 3-0 series deficit. Richards was asked about what he could draw from that experience, to prevent it from happening to the Kings.
``We can’t change anything,’’ Richards said. We obviously know we can be better. I think we can have the puck a lot more. You just have to play your game. You can’t take for granted the situation that you’re in. You have to expect the best from them. They’re going to be a hungry team and you have to bring that same hunger and match their desperation.’’
A RETURN PERFORMANCE?
Much of the chatter after Kings practice centered around the possibility that Daniel Sedin might return to the Vancouver lineup. Sedin missed the final nine games of the regular season because of a concussion and has not yet appeared in this series, but Sedin participated in a full-team practice Tuesday.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said if Sedin plays, the Kings won’t treat him any differently.
``We’ll be just as physical as we are against any other player,’’ Doughty said. ``Even though he was out with a concussion, it’s not like we’re going to let up on him. At the same time, we’re not going to be running around trying to hurt him or anything like that. We’re still going to play him hard. We need this game and we need this series, and we’re going to do everything we can to win it.’’
Sutter will certainly drive that point home to his players. Sutter barked at the Kings early in Tuesday’s practice, with some colorful language, no doubt making it clear that the series isn’t finished.
``It’s very possible for a team to come back, down 3-0,’’ Doughty said. ``You’ve seen it happen so many times. We’ve got to make sure we close it out tomorrow. We’re in our home barn. We have our home fans. They’ve been great for us so far, and we’re sleeping in our own beds every night. We have no excuse not to play our best game of the series, coming up tomorrow. We have to.’’