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Capitals working to bring Richards up to speed

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- Mike Richards will have to wait a little while longer to make his season debut with the Washington Capitals.

Richards practiced with the Capitals for the first time on Friday, but he will not play against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNP, CSN-DC, MSG). Washington coach Barry Trotz said as of now there is no timetable for the center to get into the lineup, and there is still a chance he could go to Hershey of the American Hockey League before playing for the Capitals.

Richards agreed to terms Wednesday on a prorated one-year contract with the Capitals.

"We got some work to do," Trotz said after practice at the Garden. "You could tell he hasn't been playing for eight months, but he's got some hands and you saw on the PK he's got really good sense. It'll just be getting him up to speed with the pace, the conditioning, which is normal for someone who hasn't played for eight months."

Trotz said he didn't think it would be fair to Richards to play him against the Rangers because he wouldn't be putting him in a position to succeed.

Richards hasn't played in an NHL game since April 9 of last season because his contract with the Los Angeles Kings was terminated on June 29 for what the team said was a material breach of its requirements.

Richards was arrested in June for possession of a controlled substance while entering Canada. He was later charged.

The NHL Players' Association filed a grievance on behalf of Richards on Aug. 10; a resolution was reached between the Kings and the NHLPA on Oct. 9.

"He's at the speed of training camp and that's not where we are at this time of the year," Trotz said. "I just want to be fair to him. I don't want to put him in a situation where he can't succeed. Right now that would be the case if I threw him in [Saturday]. I wouldn't expect anybody to succeed at that."

Richards indicated he has been in contact with the Capitals for the past month. He received clearance to immediately resume his career during a meeting with NHL officials Wednesday.

Prior to now, Richards had been working out on his own and playing in a men's league in his hometown of Kenora, Ontario.

"I've had enough summer training, enough time working out," Richards said. "It's nice to get back on the ice with somebody other than a midget hockey team, I guess, and my buddies back home in the men's league."

Richards got started with the Capitals in earnest Friday, when he participated in Washington's full practice and skated on the fourth line between Brooks Laich and Stanislav Galiev. He played on the penalty kill during special teams' drills. He was also in the team's post-practice meeting on the game plan against the Rangers.

"It was kind of a hectic week with a lot of things going on, so I hadn't skated since Monday," Richards said. "For the first little bit I felt fine, but near the end maybe a little tired out.

"Obviously it's going to take some time to get up to speed. The game is a lot faster now than it would have been in October."

Richards said right wing Justin Williams has been especially helpful to him. They played together on two Stanley Cup championship teams in Los Angeles (2012 and 2014). Richards said he leaned on Williams for advice during the process that led up to him joining the Capitals.

Williams said he expects Richards will get his career back on track with Washington.

"I know Mike is a proud guy, and when your ego takes a hit like his took a hit big time in the last couple years you want to find a way to shove it up somebody's [butt] and prove people wrong," Williams said. "He's looking to rewrite the story to his career, resurrect it. A guy with that much pride is going to do everything he can get close to the player he was. I know he's going to try to do that. I think he's ready to do that."


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