EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – His Los Angeles Kings are still in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race but Mike Richards admits he's had better winters.
Richards is on a 20-game goalless streak dating back to his last goal Nov.25 and he has one goal in his past 28 games going into Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings. Coach Darryl Sutter broke up Richards and Jeff Carter in early December and Richards has played with a host of different wings, including Kyle Clifford, Matt Frattin and Trevor Lewis. Tyler Toffoli has assumed the right wing spot for several games, though.
Goals have been particularly difficult to come by lately as Richards has no shots on goal in his past two games. Something the forward credits to simply not being aggressive.
"It's been frustrating," Richards said. "But I'm not a natural goal scorer as Jeff would be. I have to kind of earn what I get. I have to stop looking for the pass-first mentality that I usually come with and try to get pucks to the net more. I don't use it very often, but I have a decent shot, so I think I have to get back to trying to shoot more instead of trying to pick your targets."
Richards is on pace for 11 goals, which would be his lowest total in a full season since his first two years in the NHL. A tough week was made more disappointing Tuesday when Richards was not named to the Canadian team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Richards won a gold medal with Team Canada in 2010 at the Vancouver Games.
The veteran admitted he had some insight that he wasn't going to make the cut. Although he's excited for his longtime teammate Carter, who made the 2014 team after being left out in 2010.
"If it's ego more than anything, it's a disappointment not being there. But I'm happy for Jeff and he deserves to be there," Richards said. "I remember what he went through in the last Olympics, which was tough, knowing him and seeing what he was going through. He deserves it. I'm happy for him. I'm going to take the couple of weeks off and get ready for hopefully a long playoff run and get re-energized and try to take the positives out of not being in Sochi."
Jimmy Howard will start for Detroit, as backup Jonas Gustavsson remains out with a groin injury. Recent American Hockey League call-up Riley Sheahan will also replace Mikael Samuelsson in the lineup, giving Justin Abdelkader an opportunity to move to the wing.
Jonathan Quick will be back in net for Los Angeles. The Kings' franchise goalie is 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .940 save percentage since he came back from a groin injury.
Here are the projected lineups for the Red Wings and the Kings:
Henrik Zetterberg - Gustav Nyquist - Daniel Alfredsson
Justin Abdelkader - Riley Sheahan - Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller - Joakim Andersson - Tomas Tatar
Patrick Eaves - Luke Glendening - Daniel Cleary
Brendan Smith - Niklas Kronwall
Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser
Jakub Kindl - Brian Lashoff
Scratched: Mikael Samuelsson, Alexey Marchenko
Injured: Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Jonas Gustavsson (groin), Darren Helm (groin), Jonathan Ericsson (broken ribs), Stephen Weiss (hernia), Johan Franzen (head)
Dwight King – Anze Kopitar – Jeff Carter
Dustin Brown – Jarret Stoll – Justin Williams
Matt Frattin – Mike Richards – Tyler Toffoli
Kyle Clifford – Colin Fraser – Trevor Lewis
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell – Slava Voynov
Robyn Regehr – Alec Martinez
Scratched: Tanner Pearson, Jordan Nolan, Matt Greene.