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Capitals' Richards not nervous to face Kings

Center to face L.A. for first time since contract was terminated

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Mike Richards isn't sure what to expect during his first shift against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, but there is one thing he hopes will happen.

"Hopefully [I'll] score a goal," Richards said. "I don't think I'll be nervous or anything, but I think it'll be more excitement than nervousness. It would be nice to win."

Richards hasn't scored a goal in 11 games since signing with the Capitals on Jan. 6. In fact, he doesn't have a point.

It would be as good a time as any to get on the board at Verizon Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNP, FS-W, CSN-DC, NHL.TV), when Richards will face the Kings for the first time since they terminated his contract after he was arrested for possession of prescription painkillers during a stop at the Canadian border on June 17.

The NHL Players' Association appealed the termination, and a settlement was reached in October.

"I don't hold grudges," said Richards, who won the Stanley Cup twice, in 2012 and 2014, and had 133 points in 257 regular-season games in four seasons with the Kings. "It's hockey, and I'm happy to be here now and I'm a true believer that everything happens for a reason. We'll see how this plays out."

Although his last few months with the Kings were rocky, Richards remembers his time with them fondly.

"There was way more highs than lows," he said. "It is what is. Obviously, everybody knows how it ended, but my time in L.A. was awesome. We won two Cups and went to the [Western Conference Final in 2013], so I don't really have a lot of bad memories."

Capitals forward Justin Williams was Richards' teammate with the Kings from 2011-15. Tuesday will be his first time playing against Los Angeles as well.

"I think maybe [Richards] will have a few different feelings," said Williams, who played in Los Angeles from 2008-2015. "We had a lot of success there, but his falling out was a lot different than mine. I'm sure he'll have a big growl and big will to win that game as well."

Williams doesn't have any hard feelings toward the Kings, but the competitive drive that made him an integral part of the two Cup runs is still there.

"I feel like I really want to win," Williams said. "I want to say that it's just another game, but it's not. It has a lot of meaning to me and it has a lot of importance to me, but at the same time, there's a lot of importance for our team too. We're trying to get better, and that's a good team to do it against."

Of course, being on the best team in the NHL doesn't hurt either. The Capitals lead the League with 84 points through 54 games.

Williams was a resource for Richards while he was in negotiations with the Capitals. Richards wanted to know everything, and Williams delivered on the answers.

"He was bang on with the atmosphere, the dressing room, how everyone enjoys being around each other and just how much fun it is to come to the rink every morning," Richards said. "He told me it was one of his most enjoyable years as a pro, and that says a lot for him. It's lived up to everything and more. It's been great."

Having two pieces from the Kings' championship teams could be a difference-maker for the Capitals, who have plenty of playoff experience between captain Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom but have yet to reach the Eastern Conference Final during Ovechkin's career.

"There's a lot of playoff experience here," Richards said. "Justin's won at every level; they call him 'Mr. Game 7' for a reason. He's just a guy that loves a big-game opportunity, and if you need a big game, he's always the guy that steps up, and I think he takes great pride in that. I think he loves that moment and he takes great pride in all of those scenarios."

A former 30-goal scorer, Richards knows those days most likely are behind him. He's found happiness in learning other ways to contribute to his team.

"I think I realized early in my career I'm probably not going to get 50 goals (in a season) or 500 (in his NHL career) like Ovi," Richards said. "You get a taste of that Cup, and you just want to win every year, and that's what it's all about now, whether you get 100 points, 20 points. It's all about ending the season with a win."

There was a time when Richards wasn't sure he'd play in the NHL again, and now that he has a second chance, he wants nothing more than to keep winning, no matter where he plays.

'You want to go out and do well," Richards said. "It's not proving people wrong. If you're looking to do that, then you got other issues probably if you're in this sport to do that. It's more just about getting the best out of you, taking advantage of the opportunities you're given and really just being a part of the NHL and doing your best to have success. You try to live in the moment and do the best that you can."

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