Immediately prior to Game 2 there was a stir in the press box as Mike Richards and Robyn Regehr were both listed as scratches on the official roster report before the official Kings lineup was eventually submitted and uploaded.
When the lineup was finalized, Richards was held out with what was described as an “upper-body injury” while Regehr was able to play despite needing stitches after taking a puck to his head during warm-ups.
The temporary confusion upstairs was handled more fluidly in the Los Angeles Kings’ dressing room, where Richards was unable to play because of concussion-like symptoms that were a result of a jarring – and discouragingly un-penalized – hit by Chicago Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland in Game 1 of the teams’ Western Conference Finals series.
“He was fine all day, but I think once he got to the United Center last night, he starts thinking about being a warrior and then the blood starts pumping and then he starts going through his routine and then you go through your meeting and you go out for warm-up, and then he knows himself,” Darryl Sutter said Monday. “That’s the first thing I did after warm-up, because we had extra guys in warm-up. It’s not just for Mike. We had guys warm up that are banged up. You’ve got to check. You don’t turn in your roster until about 16 minutes before the game. That’s literally when we waited to.”
Gauging multiple players’ statuses during warm-ups for an upcoming game isn’t new for Sutter, though the imprecise nature of monitoring symptoms from a head injury provided a unique challenge. It cause the team to have to re-analyze multiple situations in the absence of a key player who has averaged over 18 and a half minutes per game.
“I’m not sure quite that same one where it’s symptom-related,” Sutter recalled when asked whether he had been in a similar situation in warm-ups, “but certainly guys are getting froze up, or they can’t get it froze up or that sort of thing where you’ve got to make a decision. Guys telling you if they can play or not, and you’ve got to have the back-up plan and be ready for it. It’s the first thing you do. Hey, it’s tough to lose a player at that time, but the first thing you have to do as a head coach and make sure you address it with your group because everybody has to know who’s going where. It’s not like Mike Richards is like a guy that you’re just sort of spotting in your lineup. He’s a significant part of everything. He’s a significant part of if you’re into match-ups, if you’re into faceoffs, if you’re into power play, if you’re into penalty killing, last minute, first minute. It moves everybody around a little bit. You can say how you’re going to adjust, but what you want guys to do in the situations, or what they have to do to be ready for it, but you’re not replacing that player.”
It’s not as if players’ attempting to play through pain is a new, unforeseen wrinkle to the 2013 postseason.
“Well, we’re certainly used to it,” Sutter said. “We’ve made a lot of decisions literally game-to-game – or as last night, made it between warm-up and game – so it’s something we’re used to. We’ve handled it really well. Obviously it becomes a factor the farther you go, just because of the quality of play. We’ve handled it really well as a group.”
Sutter was also asked if the protocol in scrutinizing head injuries was something was conducted with the same concern “20 years ago.”
“Probably not, because you didn’t even talk to yourself about it as a player,” he said. “You know what? You just played. You didn’t go ask somebody – or somebody wasn’t there – there wasn’t a huge staff watching you. It was basically you and your teammates and a couple coaches.”
On whether Richards will continue to follow the protocol prior to Game 3:
“I ain’t gonna talk no more about it, quite honest. I mean, it’s like when you guys asked about Jarret last series. The same questions you have are the same ones I have. It’s not today. It’s tomorrow. It’s after activity, how they react, if they’re allowed activity. How they react. There’s no secret to it. It’s how they react to it. So that’s how we do it.”
On whether he’s comfortable using Dustin Penner, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli together:
“Quite honest, that’s where Mike would have played last night, and they were our best line. The adjustments they made, how does that affect 16 minutes before the game, that line was awesome. I think Tyler was nervous early, made a couple mistakes. I think Jeff and Dustin’s experience, I think they did a really good job for us.”