LOS ANGELES – It came as a big surprise in Game 2 when Los Angeles center Mike Richards was announced as a late scratch. On Tuesday it wasn’t nearly as shocking.
The Kings will be without Richards once again, as the center is still experiencing symptoms from Dave Bolland’s hit on him in Game 1. Richards was not on the ice with the Kings during morning skate, but coach Darryl Sutter told reporters he’s doing a little bit each day.
“But it's the same, you know, the progress of it. If it's just about Mike Richards, Mike Richards making the decision, Mike Richards is playing tonight,” Sutter said. “You got guys that don't want to play and you got guys that want to play. Mike Richards is a guy that wants to play.”
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Blackhawks center Michal Handzus, who played with Richards back when they were both in Philadelphia, said it’s a tough loss for the Kings.
“He's great player. Their team is all about two-way guys. He has great offensive skills. He's very tough to play against on the defense also,” Handzus said. “You could already see his first year in the league he was a leader. He was kind of developing where he's going to be right now. But in saying that, you know, it's playoffs. They miss guys and other guys are going to step up. We don't look at it that it's going to be easy or anything like that. It's going to be way tougher, I think.”
For the Blackhawks, ultimately it doesn’t matter who’s in or out of the Kings’ lineup. They know the Kings will be coming out strong, feeding off the Staples Center home crowd in trying to avoid a 3-0 Western Conference Finals deficit. The Kings are 7-0 this postseason at the Staples Center and look to build on that.
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The Blackhawks will try to thwart that and look to have the start they did in Game 2.
“Obviously in the games, the momentum is huge. I think the first goal is going to be a good one, especially the first game here,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “Both teams play really well defensively. I think the first goal is going to be huge here today. We're obviously going to try to get that one.”
Stephen Walkom, the referee who whistled the play dead a few seconds before Hjalmarsson scored what he thought was the go-ahead goal in Game 7 vs. Detroit, is part of the Game 3 officiating crew..
Walkom called Brandon Saad and Kyle Quincey for matching minors just seconds before Hjalmarsson scored with less than two minutes remaining in that Game 7, which was tied at 1 at the time. The Blackhawks, Hjalmarsson especially, were furious. But they got over it quickly when Brent Seabrook scored the game-and series-winning goal in overtime.
“I got so mad. I didn’t see the situation what happened there but it doesn’t matter now,” Hjalmarsson said immediately after that game. “If we would’ve lost it would’ve been a tough one. But since we won it doesn’t really matter much.”