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X-Factor: Richards just what Capitals need

Winning pedigree could put Washington over top

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Mike Richards' name hasn't shown up much on the scoresheet during his 39 games with the Washington Capitals.

He has two goals and three assists but there's no disappointment in those totals; he wasn't signed for offense.

The Capitals needed depth at center to shore up their bottom-six forward group before the postseason. Richards' winning pedigree doesn't hurt either.

Richards, 31, has played 124 Stanley Cup Playoff games, 16th among active players, and has won the Stanley Cup twice, in 2012 and 2014 with the Los Angeles Kings. In 2010 he was the captain of the Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Flyers.

The Capitals signed Richards on Jan. 9 after a tumultuous offseason. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance while entering Canada, and on June 29 the Kings terminated his contract. The criminal charges eventually were stayed and a settlement was reached regarding his contract.

Video: WSH@OTT: Richards nets opening goal off turnover

As the fourth-line center in Washington, the Capitals don't need Richards to score goals, though he would like to be able to contribute more that way. They need him to pester and frustrate opponents, kill penalties and maybe pass on some wisdom to other players.

Richards shrugs off the sentiment that he's a leader in the room and instead defers to Justin Williams as the one capable of providing necessary insight.

"If you've got something that needs to be said, Justin's a really good leader," Richards said. "We'll try to lead, but there's usually nothing that needs to be said or done any differently in the playoffs than the regular season."

Coach Barry Trotz said he recalled seeing Richards' tenacity come to life during past playoff games between the Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I've seen Mike Richards absolutely get under Jonathan Toews' skin," Trotz said. "Or if it wasn't Toews, he was able to affect how Patrick Kane or someone [played], one of those great players when they had those great battles with Chicago. He had a way to just get them thinking about something different rather than that laser focus that those stars have in the playoffs."

Trotz said he sees the same qualities in Williams, who played on the Kings' Cup winners with Richards. The Capitals had the playoffs in mind when they signed Williams in the summer, and then Richards.

Video: PIT@WSH: Richards scores through traffic

"Especially when they're on, they're able to just get it off-kilter just enough to make that guy mortal again," Trotz said. "[Richards has] gamesmanship. He knows how to have an effect on the game. He's really intense. He's similar to Justin. They both have gone through those battles and they have an ability just to affect the game in subtle ways."

Since he's played half as many games as most NHL players this season, Richards admits the playoffs will feel a little bit like midseason for him.

"I think once the excitement builds up of having the season over and going into the playoffs, it'll feel like playoffs again," Richards said. "In a seven-game series it's always heated. It's just fun hockey, to be honest. It's easy to get up for and you just love feeling the energy in the building and stuff like that."

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