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X-Factor: Mike Richards brings winning way to Kings

by John Kreiser

Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards and winning seem to go hand in hand.

Richards got to lift the Stanley Cup last spring after helping the Kings end a 45-year championship drought, but it wasn't the first time he's gotten a chance to celebrate an ultimate victory.

Richards was a member of the Kitchener Rangers in 2003 when they won the Ontario Hockey League championship and followed that by winning the Memorial Cup. He earned a gold medal with Canada at the 2005 World Junior Championship, and after his junior season ended a few months later, Richards turned pro and helped the Philadelphia Phantoms win the Calder Cup.

If that's not enough, there is the Olympic gold medal he earned with Canada in 2010.

All that winning -- the victory in the Cup Final last spring was the 20th series of his professional and amateur careers in which his team was the final one standing -- is why Richards' value to a team transcends his stats.

Not that his numbers aren't good, but he's one of the few players whose offensive totals go up at playoff time. Though the competition in the postseason is much more intense, Richards' career points-per-game average in the postseason (0.78) is higher than his regular-season figure (0.74). He said one reason is he's played for teams that have traditionally excelled in the stretch run leading up to the postseason.

"Every time you go into a playoff run where you're kind of stumbling a little bit, you don't do as well as maybe as if you're going in there on a high note," Richards told the Kings website. "I think that's what brings a little bit more excitement to our group -- we've had the same group, and we know what we're capable of when we play well, and we've been playing well lately too. So it's definitely an exciting time."

Richards came to the Kings from the Philadelphia Flyers during the summer of 2011. In his final four seasons of his six-year tenure with the Flyers, he had at least 23 goals and 62 points -- perhaps setting the offensive expectations of L.A. hockey fans too high. But playing for the defense-oriented Kings and missing time because of a concussion limited Richards to 18 goals and 44 points in his first season on the West Coast, leaving a lot of fans disappointed.

But Richards showed his offensive value when it mattered most. He had 15 points in 20 games as the Kings won their first Stanley Cup.

"Because he came in the trade last year and then he was in and out with a concussion, it probably took him a year to get settled, and you probably saw his best in April, May and June," coach Darryl Sutter said. "So that's what we're trying to do again."

After a slow start this season, he's among the top five on the Kings in points. Now comes the postseason, Richards' favorite time of the year.

"It's definitely why you play hockey, these last couple games and the playoffs," Richards said. "It's definitely an exciting time."

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