Mike Richards

Lombardi didn’t want to lose ‘special ingredient’ by buying out Richards


The Los Angeles Kings couldn’t afford to take the decision of whether or not to keep Mike Richards lightly. This summer represented their last chance to use a compliance buyout on him and entirely shed his $5.75 million annual cap hit through 2019-20.

Richards is coming off a rough season and spent some time on the fourth line during the playoffs, so if the status quo persists, then his contract will become an obstacle. All the same, Kings GM Dean Lombardi decided to keep Richards, in part because Richards’ self-analysis following the season was accurate, but also because it wasn’t that long ago Lombardi saw firsthand what Richards can bring to the table.

“We don’t win the first Cup without him,” Lombardi told ESPN.

When Richards joined them, the Kings hadn’t won a playoff series since 2001, but he played a pivotal role in the Kings beating the Presidents’ Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2011 postseason. As Lombardi put it, Richards taught the Kings how to win in the playoffs and since then, they have been one of the best postseason squads in the league.

“You’re loathe to ever give up on that kind of player, it’s very difficult to find that special ingredient,” Lombardi said. “Even through his negatives this year, who rises to the occasion in the end? Time and again he shows up at critical moments.”

The Kings would rather have a guy who steps up in the playoffs rather than a regular season star. That speaks to the way the team operates as they’ve won the Stanley Cup twice in three years without so much as earning a division title in the process.

Richards wasn’t particularly good in either situation in 2013-14 and now Lombardi has to hope his continued trust in him isn’t misplaced.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?