Kings center Mike Richards plays against Toronto back in December. (Claus Andersen / Getty Images )
Kings center Mike Richards trends toward thinking and acting like a captain.
His voice is a quiet but effective one with his Kings teammates and he sent former Philadelphia Flyers teammate Claude Giroux a supportive text in November, according to NHL.com.
Not only was he trying to help a buddy but attempting to boost his morale, in terms of getting Giroux back in the mix for Team Canada for the Olympics in Sochi.
Canada has such depth that Giroux, once considered a lock in the fall, did not make it. Nor did Richards, who has a resume dotted with accolades and championships at every level, including a gold medal in Vancouver in 2010.
“There's a lot of players in the same situation as I am,” Richards said after Saturday's morning skate, in advance of the game against Detroit. “Guys that were probably even closer to making it than I was. It's disappointing, but I talked to Steve [Yzerman] the morning of, and wished him good luck.
“Obviously, as a Canadian, and a guy who has a tattoo of a Canada flag on his back, I wish them success. And hopefully they do well in the tournament.”
Richards had an idea of his status even before the phone call with Yzerman, who is the executive director for Team Canada as well as the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. So the blow wasn't as harsh as it might have been and muted by the inclusion of his friend and Kings teammate Jeff Carter, who just missed out in 2010.
“I had a little bit of insight going up to it, so I knew in advance that I wasn't going to be there,” Richards said. “It's ego more than anything, it's a disappointment of not being there.
“But I'm happy for Jeff and he deserves to be there. I remember what he went through in the last Olympics, which was just tough knowing him, and seeing what he was going through.
“I'm going to take a couple of weeks to try to get ready for hopefully a long playoff run and re-energized and try to take the positives of not being in Sochi.”
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter rattled off a handful of Richards' accomplishments on the morning Team Canada was named.
“Mike's a winner,” Sutter said. “It's set up for a big rink over there. If you look at the centermen they took, Mike's not going to play ahead of the centermen, and he's not a natural winger. It doesn't take anything away from Mike Richards, that's for sure, not at all.
“He's a champion. You can guarantee Mike is also pulling for Canada and pulling for Jeff Carter.”
Richards is mired in a goal-scoring drought, having gone 20 games without scoring, the second-longest spell since he joined the Kings in the 2011-12 season. He had an assist in Thursday's 4-2 win over Boston, his first point in four games.
There were tangible reasons: a bout with flu in December, and playing with linemates not named Carter. Richards says that chemistry is starting to evolve with linemate Tyler Toffoli.
“I don't think I've ever been a natural goal-scorer like Jeff is,” said Richards, who has six goals and 29 points in 45 games. “Usually I'm a pass-first guy. I've just got to start getting back to shooting first and looking for second options later. So the biggest thing is the thought process when you start getting looks toward the nets, shoot more and look for passes second.
“I feel I know where he [Toffoli] is for the most part. Matt [Frattin] is working hard and we're getting opportunities. We're looking for each other a bit little too much right now where we just have to get the puck to the net and try to create scrambles.”