The Los Angeles Kings had a few positive takeaways to take from Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in Chicago on Saturday. Thankfully one of them is Mike Richards is expected to play in Game 2.
Richards took a vicious hit from Dave Bolland late in the 2nd period when he changed directions amidst a wrap around behind the Blackhawks net. He never saw Bolland coming. If you missed the hit, here it is: Chris Kuk of the Chicago Tribune reported that Bolland is not going to face a disciplinary hearing from the league, despite the hit being as illegal as almost any in the playoffs. Bolland was not even penalized on the play. Bolland left his feet, and exploded off the ice at the head of Richards, who woozily left the ice. If that was Raffi Torres again, a light punishment would have been a one game suspension.
When asked if Richards would play today, Darryl Sutter angrily grumbled that he is fine. That is about as much as any reporter got out of the coach, who might just be the equivalent of a bucking bronco. When tried to corral for a straight answer in an interview or press conference is generally when he is most unpredictable (and generally entertaining), sending questions and reporters flying.
The supposition is that Richards “is fine” means that Richards will play. But Sutter didn’t say he would play. Hockey coaches play it really close to the vest all the time, but during the playoffs especially. The Kings need Richards to set his linemate Jeff Carter up for a few long awaited goals, and continue his effectiveness on the penalty kill. If Richards is unavailable, the kings have no shortage of centers to fill in for his spot.