Kings’ Richards misses Game 4 vs. Blackhawks

LOS ANGELES — Center Mike Richards won’t be in the lineup when the Kings face the Chicago Blackhawks at Staples Center Thursday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, coach Darryl Sutter confirmed after the team’s optional skate and morning meeting.

The Kings trail the series 2-1.

Richards, who suffered a concussion when he was hit by Chicago’s Dave Bolland in Game 1, missed Games 2 and 3 but skated for about 20 minutes with the Kings’ extra players on Wednesday. However, Richards did not participate in the game-day skate Thursday, and Sutter ruled him out of the game.

The Kings have been calling Richards’ problem an upper-body injury, in keeping with hockey’s tradition of not disclosing information about players’ injuries, but Sutter referred to it as a concussion. Richards has had several concussions during his career, including one last season.

“He didn’t skate today so he won’t play tonight,” Sutter said Thursday morning when reporters asked him for an update and about how Richards felt after skating on Wednesday. “Protocol is very clear. You’ve covered enough concussions. Surely you know the protocol.”

Sutter has had to become adept at juggling his lines because of Richards’ absence and, before that, Jarret Stoll’s concussion-caused absence.

In Game 3—a 3-1 victory for the Kings—he changed them again, putting Stoll between Dustin Brown and Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar between Dwight King and Trevor Lewis, and Dustin Penner on the left with Jeff Carter and rookie Tyler Toffoli. The fourth line was Kyle Clifford with Colin Fraser and Brad Richardson.

It’s likely those combinations will stay the same Thursday.

The Blackhawks will be missing a key player too. Workhorse defenseman Duncan Keith will serve a one-game suspension imposed by the NHL for a high-stick to the face of Kings forward Jeff Carter in Game 3. Carter needed about 20 stitches to repair the damage.

We’ll have more on that soon, and how the Kings hope to capitalize on Keith’s absence.

-Helene Elliott