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Kings' Carter feels content in return to Philadelphia

by Dan Rosen /

PHILADELPHIA -- Leaning back on the wall outside the unfamiliar visitor's dressing room at Wells Fargo Center, Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter flashed a smile, revealing his bumpy gums and some scarce chipped and out-of-position teeth, a hockey player's signature grin.

There was no way to know what Carter's smile looked like June 23, 2011, when he was traded by the Philadelphia Flyers to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first of two culture-changing transactions made that day by Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, who later traded former captain Mike Richards to the Kings.

Carter was sad to be traded, and angry at the organization that drafted him and had signed him to an 11-year, $58 million contract less than a year earlier. His no-trade clause hadn't kicked in yet, but Carter thought he was safe -- until Holmgren sent him to Columbus for forward Jakub Voracek and a 2011 first-round pick he turned into center Sean Couturier.

Carter was traded to the Kings eight months later, ending a short stint in Columbus. And as he prepares to play his first game in Philadelphia since the day he was shipped out of the city (Richards played here Oct. 15, 2011), a smiling Carter appears ready to let bygones be bygones.

Time has healed his wounds; the Stanley Cup he won with the Kings in 2012 certainly helps.

"I think it's worked out pretty well," Carter said. "Stanley Cup, playing in L.A. It's a pretty good setup."

This isn't Carter's first time back to Philadelphia during the NHL season. He returned with the Blue Jackets on Nov. 5, 2011, but was unable to play because of a broken foot. He said then that he was back to get more of his belongings out of his house.

The Blue Jackets could have used him. They lost 9-2 that night.

"I was probably happy I didn't play that last one the way things worked out," Carter said. "That was a tough go for us. It's going to be exciting walking out there. It'll be fun to get out and play."

Carter said he isn't expecting a warm reception, not after seeing the way the home fans booed former New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise and former Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash in their returns last week.

"It seems like everybody that goes back to play against their old team gets booed," Carter said. "That's just the way it is. Everybody that goes back, it seems like they're getting a nice little reception. It doesn't really bother me. You go out and play the game."

Carter's game has been sagging of late. He leads the Kings with 24 goals, but he's gone the past six without one.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter told that Carter was on top of his game, sharp and effective, when he came back to Los Angeles after winning a gold medal with Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Carter had four goals and two assists in his first six games coming off the Olympic break.

However, Sutter said Carter's game has dipped since, so much so that the coach has separated Carter and Richards, typically linemates when both are playing well. Richards, in fact, has been dropped to the fourth line because of his lack of production. Carter is centering the second line, flanked by rookies Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.

Regardless of the line combinations, Carter knows the game Monday won't be like most because of the obvious emotions he'll feel walking out of the tunnel. He used to love playing in front of the Philadelphia fans, who now get to see him in a different jersey for the first time.

"It's just kind of weird how it's taken this long to get back and play here, but I'm looking forward to it," Carter said. "I had six good years here and it should be a good time [Monday]."


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