Mike Richards

Mike Richards moves on from Philadelphia, looks ahead to winning in Los Angeles

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It’s been a whirlwind last few days for new Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards. While he was traded to L.A. from Philadelphia just over a month ago in June, the talk of late has surrounded his days in Philadelphia as an apparent party boy that wasn’t taking his role with the Flyers as captain seriously and leading to him (and Jeff Carter) finding their way out of town.

While Richards has done his part to rebuff those allegations, the time to move forward is now. Richards finally had a chance to sit down and talk with the media in Los Angeles and get off on the right foot with Kings supporters. While Richards was one of the top men in Philly, he joins the Kings where a top center is already in place in Anze Kopitar and an old friend and teammate will join him in Simon Gagne. Having former Flyers head coach John Stevens as an assistant to Kings coach Terry Murray helps make the transition easier as well.

As for Richards,  he is eager to get things going in Southern California and get a fresh start.

“It’s always easier coming in when you know the system and not to have to learn the Xs and Os and there’s more focus on learning who you’re playing with,” Richards said Wednesday in his first formal meeting with the local media.

“When you don’t have to learn the system, it makes things a lot easier going through training camp. You’re not thinking too much as you normally would .. I think that’s going to be the biggest thing that’s going to help me get adjusted to L.A.”

Getting to play alongside former teammate Gagne and Kings captain Dustin Brown as well as Kopitar and Justin Williams as well will make life easier as well. As for the party boy talk and allegations that are trying to follow him to California, Richards is doing his part to move on from that and focus on Kings hockey. The Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott finds out that Richards is still smarting from all that.

Richards, who planned to fly back East on Thursday, said he looked forward to having a lower profile here. He said he didn’t know why he was traded but downplayed a recent Philadelphia Daily News story in which two unnamed Flyers said his hard partying was a factor.

“It’s tough sometimes seeing these articles or hearing some things that are said when you know that they aren’t true,” he said. “It’s almost mentally draining when you keep having to back your story up off the ice, defending yourself when people say things that aren’t really correct.”

Learning his lesson from these stories, true or not, should only help Richards stay intense and focused in L.A. Having Richards play in the Western Conference, where the play is a bit more physical and demanding thanks to travel and competition level, should help Richards look like one of the top centers in the game once again.

His physical play and scoring ability in Philadelphia helped set him apart in the East, but in the West he should thrive going up against other similar players. While his play on the ice will determine how he’s perceived, this change of scenery for Richards could prove to be the best thing for his career.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.