How long would he be gone? Or would he come back?
Those questions were eventually answered when he received a phone call Saturday afternoon from Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake. The Kings made it official Sunday, recalling Richards from their minor league affiliate in Manchester, N.H.
Richards, who practiced with his teammates Sunday in New Jersey, said it was initially "discouraging" to be sent down. After clearing waivers, he played 16 games with the Monarchs in the American Hockey League.
"But they've got a good group of guys in Manchester, which made it easier," he said Sunday in a telephone interview with The Times. "I think the biggest thing is the not knowing. I'm not very good at that, with anything, not knowing where I'm going to be or what is next.
"That was the hardest part for me — when it was going to happen. Or if it was going to happen."
Richards recorded 14 points with the Monarchs but had been in the Los Angeles area working out the last couple of weeks. The roster move was sparked by several factors: the lingering absence of injured center Jarret Stoll, lack of production by rookie centers Nick Shore and Andy Andreoff, and recent slippage by the Kings in the Western Conference playoff race.
"I told you we were probably going to bring him back at some point," Kings GM Dean Lombardi said in a telephone interview Sunday. "Obviously with Stollie out too ... we wanted to do some things. We went through the process.
"I think it was always the thought we were going to bring him back at some point. And why not? You at least want to make all the tools available to the team right now. We're obviously up against it.
"It's up to Darryl [Sutter, the Kings' coach,] how to use them. He's available. You have your 13 forwards because we were at 12, anyway."
At critical junctures, Sutter trusts his veterans and recognizes the big-game ability of Richards, who was a key part of the Kings' two Stanley Cup wins.
Richards last appeared in a game with the Kings on Jan. 21 against San Jose and most recently played with Manchester a couple of weeks ago. He was not worried about the rust factor.
"I don't think it's a concern," said Richards, who has five goals and 15 points in 47 games with the Kings this season. "We had a good practice today and we'll skate again tomorrow morning. After that, it's no different than being out with some of the injuries I've had over the years. Whether it's a concussion I had a couple of years ago in the playoffs, was out a week, and jumped right back into that.
"I don't think that will be a factor. For the most part, I've been working out hard and keeping myself in good shape just in case something did happen that I got the call."
For him, the first practice felt like old times.
"It's like being back with your family again," Richards said.
KINGS VS DEVILS
When: Monday, 4 p.m. PDT.
Where: Prudential Center.
On the air: TV: Fox Sports West. Radio: 790.
Etc.: Devils forward Patrik Elias, who had missed about a week because of back spasms, returned to the lineup Saturday in a 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders. He logged nearly 17 minutes of ice time, had three shots on goal and was a minus-one.