The Los Angeles Kings are bringing Mike Richards back to the NHL. The team announced Sunday afternoon they have recalled Richards from the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.
Richards' trip back to the big league coincides with Kings ensuing road trip, which comes at the most important part of Los Angeles’ season. With 11 games remaining on the Kings’ schedule and Los Angeles trailing Calgary by two points for third place in the Pacific Division with a game in hand, Richards call back to the NHL could signal a desperation move by the Kings to find some sort of spark to get the team over the hump and into the playoffs. The Kings also sit two points back of the Winnipeg Jets for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
On their upcoming road trip, the Kings will face the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks. The tour through the Metropolitan Division – with matchups against a hot Rangers team and the resurgent Islanders – could be enough to put a dagger in Los Angeles’ playoff hopes, but finishing the trip in the Central Division against the streaking Wild and always-dangerous Blackhawks makes the situation more precarious.
Some could consider bringing in Richards a move by GM Dean Lombardi to bring all hands on deck, while it may be one to get Richards ready for the playoffs should the Kings make it to the dance.
Before his demotion, Richards, for the second consecutive year, was having a down season and, at age 30, is coming out of his prime. With five years remaining on a deal worth $5.75 million per season, this could be Richards’ last shot to make an impact with Los Angeles, as the Kings have been rumored to be looking at trade options or a potential buyout of the veteran pivot.
Placed on waivers on Jan. 26 and demoted to the AHL on Jan. 27, Richards has played 16 games for the Monarchs, scoring three goals and 14 points to go along with four penalty minutes and, for what it’s worth, a plus-six rating. However, according to the AHL, Richards hasn't suited up for the Monarchs since March 8.
Richards’ point totals in the AHL are of note, especially considering former NHL 50-goal man Dany Heatley, who has found himself in the AHL for the bulk of the current campaign, has only mustered five goals and 11 points over 33 games in the minors. It's possible the demotion helped Richards find his game or get some confidence back.
Richards scored five goals and 15 points in 47 games for the Kings this season, but is a four-time 20-goal and two-time 30-goal scorer, all with Philadelphia. Richards’ role with the Kings – playing fourth-line minutes on a checking unit – is much different than his responsibility with Philadelphia, where he played big minutes as a top-line center.