Mike Richards has scored 11 goals and added 30 assists in 80 games for the Los Angeles Kings, marking his lowest point total since missing time two seasons ago due to a concussion. The 29-year-old has also found himself on the team's fourth line in recent weeks, an altogether unfamiliar position for the big-name center carrying a 12-year, $69-million contract.
Richards' downward swing can be explained, in part at least, to an illness suffered back in December. "After being sick, I kind of got out of shape, not playing a lot," Richards told Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times. "It probably took me a couple of weeks to realize that. That's when I started getting back on the bike and doing things."
In terms of his line assignement, Richards said it's all about context. "On another team, it might be a bit of a shock," he said. "But here we roll four lines as well as anyone in the league. Even on the fourth line [against Minnesota], I played 18 minutes. I think it was 15 and 17 the game before. It's not like you're losing a lot of minutes."
As Dillman notes, Richards - who has not registered a single point in his last seven games - typically plays his best hockey when it matters the most - in the playoffs and at the Olympics for Team Canada in 2010 when it won gold. In 35 playoff games with the Kings, Richards has scored seven goals and added 20 assists, and Los Angeles is certainly banking on a true return to form in time for a first round series with the San Jose Sharks.