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Mike Richards, Peter DeBoer: Old friends, opposite sides

Kings center Mike Richards played for New Jersey Devils Coach Peter DeBoer with the Kitchener (Canada) Rangers nearly a decade ago. Now they will face off for hockey's ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup.

May 26, 2012|By Lisa Dillman

Memorial Cup winner. Olympic gold medalist. World Junior champion. Stanley Cup champion.

All that is missing from the glittering resume of Kings center Mike Richards is the fourth item, and he came within two victories of holding the Cup two years ago with the Philadelphia Flyers.

And now, coincidentally, standing between Richards and the Stanley Cup happens to be Devils Coach Peter DeBoer, who was his coach during their successful Memorial Cup campaign with the Kitchener Rangers in 2003.

"It's hard to believe it's already been seven years," Richards said, laughing, referring to his last season playing in Kitchener, in the Canadian province of Ontario.

"He's getting really old. I'm old. He's getting really old."

Richards, by the way, turned 27 in February and DeBoer will turn 44 next month.

They have remained friends, sending texts back and forth every so often, and Richards does not seem in the least surprised that DeBoer, fired in Florida in 2011, has done so well with the Devils.

Richards spoke about DeBoer's success as a coach earlier in the playoffs, and reiterated some of those sentiments Saturday after practice in El Segundo.

"He's such a smart hockey coach, not only Xs and O's, but knows how to get the most out of his players," Richards said. "In games, he's very smart at matchups and stuff like that. I'm not really surprised by it."

Richards and his linemate and friend Jeff Carter played for Philadelphia when the Flyers lost to Chicago in the Cup Final in 2010 in six games.

Now comes Los Angeles . . . the sequel.

"We're both excited and we're both looking forward to it," Richards said of the Final. "Just having a bitter taste, remembering what the feeling was like after we lost Game 6. Obviously it's a feeling you don't want to have happen again.

"That just gives us more motivation and knowing what to expect going in there. Before we might have been a little shocked or taken back by it. We know what to expect and to focus on hockey now."

Richards has 11 points in 14 playoff games, and Carter has four goals and nine points, three of those goals coming in Game 2 against Phoenix in the Western Conference finals.

They did not play together on a regular basis in Philadelphia and their on-ice connection has been a work in progress. Richards said it was easier to be more open with Carter because they have known each other for more than a decade and weren't worried about "stepping on someone's toes."

"It took some time," Richards said. "Just a lot of communication to get back to me telling him where I need him. Him telling me what he wants me to do. . . . Instead of always having to look for each other, just reacting.

"Having a feeling you know where he is. There's been times where we've made some good plays because of that — where you can put pucks in there and he doesn't expect it to be there."

Scouting the Devils

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter: "They've got a lot of skill up front. Their centermen are fast, skilled guys. Big wingers. They've got the veterans on defense. Depending on who you talk to, the greatest goalie [Martin Brodeur] of all time."

Defenseman Drew Doughty: "Those top players are going to be very hard to contain. But we've got the guys to do it. [Ilya] Kovalchuk is obviously so skilled offensively. You give him the room to take that shot, he's usually going to score.

"And then [Zach] Parise just kind of does it all. He battles so hard, works so hard and he's a tough player to play against. That's why he's their leader. He's kind of like Brownie [Dustin Brown] in that sense where he just plays so hard and leads by example."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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