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Kings center Mike Richards set to return against New Jersey Devils

Mike Richards makes his return to the Kings against the New Jersey Devils

Mike Richards was getting ready to play his first game with the Kings since Jan. 21.

So much has changed since then. Still, it comes always back to hockey and his Kings teammates, meaning a lot has stayed the same.

He admitted it was humbling to get waived and sent to the minors. Now that Richards is back in the NHL, the process of acclimating to his teammates has been fairly straightforward. The Kings officially recalled him on Sunday from Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League.

“It’s pretty easy to get back. It’s two months, but at the same time I’ve been with this group for about four years now,” Richards said after Monday’s morning skate, a few hours before the Kings played the New Jersey Devils.

“It’s crunch time now. It’s unfortunate that we put ourselves in this position.”

Said Kings captain Dustin Brown: “I think it’s awesome that he’s back. He was a big part of the team before he left. He brings a lot of things, a lot of things people don’t see. The whole package.”

The New Jersey game starts a five-game trip and the rest of the journey, to the New York area and later Minnesota and Chicago, could help determine the Kings’ playoff hopes.

They were out of a playoff spot before Monday night’s action and it’s one of the several reasons Richards is back from their minor-league affiliate in Manchester, N.H.

“Obviously we’ve lost Jarret [Stoll] in the middle of the ice and we really haven’t been strong in the middle of the ice if you look at our team from earlier in the year, from years prior,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said.

“We moved Jeff [Carter] to the middle. Kopi (Anze Kopitar) and Jeff, there been a drop after that. I’ve said it all along and I still believe Mike is a really good player.

“I trust him and he trusts me. That’s a big part of it. We’ve put some young guys in there -- at the end of the day I think they’re going to be good players -- but right now, they haven’t shown it consistently we can win with them.”

On another topic, Sutter was asked when defenseman Alec Martinez would return to the lineup. Martinez is on the trip and was activated from injured reserve last week.

“The bottom line is: When a guy has been out six weeks with a head injury when are they ready to play?” Sutter said. “Right now, it’s like talking about Mike, experience is a factor.”

Twitter: @reallisa

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