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.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.