Will Mike Richards Be a Difference-Maker in Western Conference Final?

Once a top-six player each and every night, Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards now suits up on the third or fourth line. This is a luxury 29 NHL teams wish they had.

But it’s only an advantage for the Kings if Richards is playing up to his potential. The Kings find themselves tied 1-1 with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final. It's time Richards stepped up, not just in Games 6 and 7, but throughout the series.

The keys to victory will be outworking the opposing center, playing with more of a physical edge and finding his scoring touch.

The 29-year-old forward had a rough season by his standards. He notched just 11 goals and 30 assists for 41 points in 82 games. He didn’t offer the physical presence he has throughout his career.

So far in the playoffs, he has two goals and four assists for six points, his lowest point-per-game average since his rookie season.

Richards is a talented two-way player and respected leader who has won at just about every level. At the very least, he should be able to win the matchup against whatever center the Blackhawks put out against him.

According to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com, Trevor Lewis has this to say about his teammate:

He's a real leader on this team. I think he's probably used to playing more minutes and probably with more offensive players, but he's bought right in. And anything he can do to help the team, I think it's huge for him.

Through two games, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews have appeared to cancel each other out. As you go to the depth chart and see Richards against less skilled and experienced players like Peter Regin and Marcus Kruger, that should be a definite advantage for L.A.

Regardless of whom his linemates are, Richards should play a big role in limiting Chicago’s time in the Kings’ zone, controlling the breakout and generating chances of ...

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