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Kings Coach Darryl Sutter picks his spots with veteran team

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter watches his team practice Friday in El Segundo as the team got its first workouts of training camp in after winning the Stanley Cup last season.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter watches his team practice Friday in El Segundo as the team got its first workouts of training camp in after winning the Stanley Cup last season.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter mostly left the off-season monitoring of players -- not that there was much --to his boss, Dean Lombardi, the team’s general manager.

Lombardi found his way this summer to the Canadian wilds of Kenora to check in on the fitness and progress of center Mike Richards. Kenora, in Ontario, Canada, is about two and a half hours from Winnipeg.

Times colleague Helene Elliott asked Richards whether Lombardi stayed to do any fishing during his brief visit. He did not. But they had lunch.

“I think it took him longer to get to Kenora than he actually stayed in Kenora,” Richards said Saturday. “He watched me work out and that’s about it.”

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The short summer had the players feeling as if they never really got away. Saturday was the second full day of training camp for the Kings.

“I talked to Mike about that on the ice yesterday,” Sutter said. “I said it’s like we just finished practice.”

Sutter knows how to pick his spots with his Stanley Cup-winning team. And those aren’t in July and August.

“Teams have five months off,” he said, talking about those teams missing the playoffs. “What does interaction mean? Sometimes they [the players] need a little space. We didn’t have five months off. They don’t need me every day. They’re used to winning. They don’t need me every day.

“If you need somebody watching from above, that’s usually those teams that are doing a lot of watching from above.”

Richards hired a trainer for the first time since his junior hockey playing days, looking for someone to “push him.” Or even serve as a fitness “baby sitter.”

Lombardi thought about buying out his contract after Richards suffered through a rough regular season. But Richards looked more like the Richards of old in the postseason and made a commitment to Lombardi to work harder in the summer.

Richards, who had 10 goals and 41 points in 82 games last season, is trying not to dwell on what went wrong.

“It’s just one of those things that started snowballing,” he said. “...I’m happy that it ended with a win because you’d hate to waste a full season. If the team wins, it’s great. Obviously you’d love to have 100 points or 50 goals or whatever it is. I’d rather be on a team that wins than do those things.

“Like I said, you hate to go through the season losing out early and having a bad year because then it’s just a full wasted season. Then you turn a pretty [bad] season into a really good one.”


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