Brad Richardson, essentially a borderline fourth-line player at the start of the season, is now the Kings’ first-line left winger, on a line with Anze Kopitar and wayne Simmonds. Richardson is actually the veteran on that line, at age 24 and with 216 NHL games.
Richardson’s promotion is less about having high-end offensive ability — he has six goals in 49 games this season — and is more about bringing hard work and forechecking to the line. The goal, really, is to get more out of Kopitar, and Terry Murray feels that Richardson’s style of play could help get Kopitar going. Still, Richardson on the first line? Who would have thought it? I asked Murray today about the unlikeliness of it…
MURRAY: “I don’t look at it that way, necessarily. He has played awfully well, in all situations and all of the opportunities that he has gotten, from starting as the fourth-line left wing, to third-line left wing, early in the year, to a center iceman on a line with Simmonds and Parse. That was probably our best line at that time, through a stretch. He brings hard work, intensity. He’s got some grit to his game now, and I want to get that hard-work attitude back into our game.
“The two guys that are there right now, on the wings, I think really set the tone for that style of a game. And I loved the way Kopi responded, with the `let’s get down to basics, the fundamentals. I’ll have the puck, I’ll attack and try to do some things. You guys work hard for me on the forecheck and cycle, and let’s just go get some hard-work goals.’ Again, I thought it set the precedent, for the game, for the rest of our lineup.”
And here are Richardson’s thoughts…
Question: If I had told you, before the season, that you would be the first-line left winger in January, would you have believed me?
RICHARDSON: “Proably not, but wherever they put you, you try to play your best. I’m just having fun with it and trying to work hard. I’m obviously excited to get a chance to play with Kopi. He’s a special player, so I’m just trying to get him the puck and get to the net.”
Question: Does it make it easer for you that, in essence, the coaches want the same game from you? They really haven’t asked you to do anything different, right?
RICHARDSON: “They haven’t really said anything, just, `Go out and do the same thing.’ That makes it easy. Whether you’re on the fourth line or the first line, you just try to create some energy. You’re obviously going to get some offensive opportunities, playing with a guy like Kopi, and that’s a lot of fun, so I’m just trying to make the most of the opportunity.”
Question: Do you sense opponents playing you any different now, as opposed to the start of the season?
RICHARDSON: “Not really. Everyone is going to play you hard in this league, so you just try to go out and do the exact same thing.”