Hard work, perseverance and determination — three words that best describe Los Angeles Kings forward Brad Richardson.
A healthy scratch for 32 of the team’s first 34 games that included a stretch of 24 consecutive games without being dressed, Richardson never stopped working both on and off the ice or became frustrated enough to seek a trade.
He prepared each and every day, awaiting to get the word from head coach Darryl Sutter that he was back in the lineup.
After a Kings disappointing shootout loss to Minnesota back in March, Sutter decided to make some changes and Richardson finally earned his way back into the lineup the following night in Dallas.
Despite playing in his first game in well over a month, he made an instant impact, scoring his first goal of the season in a 3-2 Kings victory over Dallas.
“It was a great feeling scoring that goal,” Richardson said. “You want to make an impression on the coaches because it sucks not playing. We have 23 guys that can all contribute so it is tough for the coaches because only 20 guys can be in the lineup each night.”
Richardson has been doing everything that has been asked of him since he returned to the lineup and has now played in 12 consecutive games, following Tuesday night’s contest in Minnesota.
Though he is still stuck on the one goal, he has contributed three assists. His versatility has seen him not only playing on the Kings’ fourth line, but the speedy winger has also earned time killing penalties as well as spot duty on a line with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
While Brad Richardson has struggled to find his way into the lineup, rookie Jake Muzzin has been a fixture on the blue line. Injuries to Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell opened the door for Muzzin for some added playing time and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity.
In fact, in a recent poll of NHL coaches conducted by TSN, Muzzin earned some consideration as the NHL’s top rookie.
“It’s always great hearing your named mentioned for something like that,” Muzzin said. “But a lot of my success can be attributed to the way we play as a team. We play great team defense. It’s not just about me doing my job, but all five guys on the ice having the same commitment.”
Even with the return of Greene and the addition of Robyn Regehr to the Kings backline, Muzzin has elevated himself on the team’s depth chart ahead of Alec Martinez who played a key role on the Kings run to the Stanley Cup.
“He’s given us good minutes five on five and he’s been really good on the power play,” Sutter said.
And the numbers back it up.
Muzzin ranks in the top five among all NHL rookies in power play goals, average minutes played per game and plus/minus.
What is most impressive about Muzzin’s season is that he is one of the handful of rookies that has put up big numbers for a team that has been playing meaningful games from start to finish.
While winning the Rookie of the Year award may be out of reach, it’s not so important to Muzzin, who has his eyes set on a much more important trophy.