At the Los Angeles Kings’ morning skate on Thursday, Head Coach Darryl Sutter confirmed that Mike Richards would not play in Game 4 as he continues to deal with the residual effects of what was suspected and finally revealed to be a concussion.
“He didn’t skate today so he won’t play tonight,” Sutter said. “Protocol is very clear. You’ve covered enough concussions. Surely you know the protocol.”
Richards skated for roughly 20 minutes at the team’s practice facility on Wednesday, though as is the case with concussions, there is no linear process to pinpoint when he would be cleared to play.
In his absence, Jeff Carter will shift to center and Tyler Toffoli will play on the right wing, opposite Dustin Penner, as part of a line that has accounted for seven points and a plus-eight rating combined over the last two games.
Patrick Kane has begun to answer questions about his production in a series in which the Kings haven’t afforded him ample amounts of time and space. The star Chicago right wing who posted a 23-goal, 55-point regular season has been held in check for the final two games of the Chicago-Detroit series and the first three games of the Western Conference Finals, accounting for only one assist over that span.
Though Los Angeles hasn’t provided him the space that allows his attributes to fully flourish, Kane’s recent struggles aren’t a part of any Kings scheme to narrowly focus on one key performer, according to Matt Greene.
“I think just the more time we can spend in their zone, it’s the better for us, and that’s it. That’s the less time that they’re attacking us,” Greene said. “They’ve got a high-powered offense, and if we’re playing our game where were spending a lot of O-zone time, that’s what we want to do.”
The absence of Duncan Keith for Game 4 means that the Blackhawks will turn to 32-year-old Sheldon Brookbank, a familiar opponent who played down Interstate 5 for the last four years.
“He was in Anaheim for a while, and he’s been around,” Jarret Stoll said. “He’s an experienced guy, too. He’ll step in and I’m sure do the job.”
Brookbank isn’t going to be used to simply replace Keith, who averaged 24:44 of ice time through the playoffs and “does everything,” according to Stoll.
The absence of one of the league’s most well-rounded defensemen won’t change the way Los Angeles prepares for the game, either.
“Approach it the same way. Worry about our game plan and get ourselves going,” Greene said. “They’ve got a good team. They can fill in. They can find those minutes by committee, so we’ve just got to worry about our game and make sure that we’re ready to go.”
It was a notion reinforced by Justin Williams.
“No,” the winger answered when asked if the Kings would approach the game any differently in Keith’s absence.
“I mean, we need to win this game. No matter who’s in the lineup – obviously there’s bigger parts of teams, but together you’re a team. You play as one. They’re going to need to step up. I’m sure they’ll be talking about that. But we need to step up as well. We have a few guys out of our lineup, and we need to continue off where we left off,” Williams said.
The Blackhawks are a team that has experience in spreading defensive minutes around, according to Darryl Sutter, and should be appropriately equipped to handle the absence of its anchor.
“Chicago’s the best team in the league this year, not based on one player,” he said. “In fact, Dustin Keith’s minutes were cut back substantially this year to allow them to be a fresh team every night, and probably one of the reasons they were the best team in the league by a long shot was the fact that their defense was healthy.”
Luc Robitaille, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009, will be inducted into the California Sports Hall of Fame this Sunday.
The Kings President, Business Operations will be honored in the Class of 2013 during a ceremony that will be preceded by Bob Miller’s introduction. Miller, who was the first member of the Los Angeles Kings organization when he was inducted in 2011, was followed by Marcel Dionne’s induction in 2012. Both are also in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The event will take place at 5:00 pm on June 9 at the Ontario Convention Center. Other inductees include Joe Montana, Greg Louganis, Florence Griffith Joyner, John Robinson and Tony Gwynn.
Former Kansas City Chiefs running back Christian Okoye, a standout at Azusa Pacific University from 1984-87, is the President of the California Sports Hall of Fame.