Mike Richards seems mature about his breakup with the Kings

AP
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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Mike Richards was supposed to be the Los Angeles Kings’ Derek Jeter and represent the pivotal piece to winning championships. He won two Stanley Cups, yet was shown the door last summer.

Richards hit two highs and many more lows in four seasons with the Kings, who terminated his contract last summer. He had been sent to the minor leagues after his play and production dropped off and was arrested at the Canadian border in June for possession of a controlled substance.

The 31-year-old eventually settled a grievance with Los Angeles but was out of the NHL until the Washington Capitals signed him in January. Richards faces the Kings on Tuesday for the first time since his departure and insists there are no hard feelings toward the organization or Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi.

“He had to do things that he probably didn’t want to do at the end of the day, but I didn’t make it easy on him, either, to keep me around,” Richards said. “I want to say fault on both parts, but it’s probably more so on me, and he had to do what he had to do (for) what he thought benefited the L.A. Kings.”

Lombardi could have bought out Richards with no salary-cap ramifications in the summer of 2014 after the Kings’ second Cup but let the two-way forward and former Philadelphia Flyers captain convince him to keep him around. The GM adored Richards and still praises him for setting the tempo in the first playoff series in 2012 against Vancouver, the first sign Los Angeles was title-bound.

Acquired from Philadelphia at the 2011 draft, Richards had 15 points in the 20 games during 2012 Cup run and was his usual penalty-killing, defensive-minded self for the first two seasons before he became a fourth-liner and was a bit part of the 2014 championship. The Kings waived him and sent him to the American Hockey League for a stint a year ago with the hope Richards would get his game together, but that didn’t happen and his 16 points were a career low.

Richards’ off-ice problems publicly came to light when he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance at a North Dakota-Manitoba border crossing June 17. The Kings terminated his contract June 29 “for a material breach of the requirements of his standard player contract,” and in October they settled on paying him a portion of the $22 million left on the deal.

Looking back on his time with the Kings, Richards remembers the Stanley Cups fondly and doesn’t want to harp on the bad times.

“I don’t hold grudges,” the Kenora, Ontario, native said after a recent Capitals practice. “I’m happy to be here now and I’m a true believer that everything happens for a reason. We’ll see how this plays out.”

Richards has yet to register a point in 11 games with Washington, where he’s able to play with former Kings teammate and 2014 playoff MVP Justin Williams. After Richards signed a pro-rated $1 million deal for the rest of the season, Williams said the Capitals are “not going to put a ceiling on what he can do because we’ve seen what he can do.”

Coach Barry Trotz and general manager Brian MacLellan didn’t expect Richards to be an offensive juggernaut, believing instead he was a good fit as a gritty complementary piece. Trotz said he was honest about what he wanted from Richards and didn’t come in with preconceived notions.

“I think he was a player that, it’s probably no different than (Alex Ovechkin), a lot of people make assumptions, a lot of people have perceptions and it’s not necessarily reality,” Trotz said. “It’s the outside world. Unless you’re in that locker room or you’re playing every night and competing with or against Mike Richards, that’s the only way you find out about the person. He’s been as advertised coming in for us.”

The day the Capitals signed Richards, Lombardi said: “Now that everything’s out in the open and the team can work with him without things being hidden, I think he’s got a great shot.”

Richards said signing with the Capitals was all about winning – not proving the Kings wrong.

“It’s not proving people wrong,” Richards said. “If you’re looking to do that, then you got other issues probably if you’re in this sport to do that. It’s more just about getting the best out of you, taking advantage of the opportunities you’re given and really just being a part of the NHL and doing your best to have success.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.