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Williams: Facing Flyers something special for Richards

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Williams: Facing Flyers something special for Richards

It’s been almost six years since Mike Richards wore orange and black and only one player – Flyers captain Claude Giroux -- remains from that 2010-11 team.

But don’t let Richards’ comments over the past few days fool you. He’s excited to play tonight against the team that traded him to the Los Angeles Kings, where he won two Stanley Cups alongside another former Flyer, Justin Williams.

“It means a little more to him than me, the way things happened on the way out,” Williams said of Richards’ abrupt departure in the summer of 2011.

“He was more the face of the franchise than I was. He’s excited, for sure, and I’m excited for him.”

Truth be told, Williams says Richards is excited to face any NHL team these days following his three-month exile after being charged with possession of a controlled substance back and having his contract with the Kings terminated.

“When you’re sitting there in Kenora in the middle of winter and not doing anything, yeah, he’s excited to be out of there and returning to what he loves doing.”

From a legal standpoint, Richards’ courtroom hearing, originally scheduled for Thursday, has been adjourned until Feb. 25, reportedly because the defense is awaiting results from further investigation.

Richards, 30, is still looking for his first point with the Capitals. In three games he’s averaged 12:23 of ice time, primarily on the fourth line and on the penalty kill, and has three shots. He’s also won 60 percent of his faceoffs.

“He’s exceeded my expectations, actually,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “I’ll use a term my goalie coach (Mitch Korn) uses. You don’t know it until you own it. What you find are a lot of the intangibles with Mike. He’s fiercely competitive. He’s got a confidence, an air about him, that when a game is on the line he’s very engaged and that’s good to have.”

Since leaving Philadelphia Richards has maintained relationships with many of his former Flyers teammates, including Giroux, who told Philadelphia reporters that Richards reached out to him shortly after Giroux was named captain of the Flyers, a position Richards held before he was traded for forwards Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and a second-round draft pick.

“I was kind of having a tough time and he reached out to me,” Giroux told reporters on Tuesday. “Since then we text once in a while. It’s good for him to be back in the league.  I’ve learned so much from him.”

Richards said his phone call to Giroux was simply “friends helping friends.” He says he has closer ties with some of the Flyers’ trainers and management team than he does their current players.

“It always has a special place in your heart, just being the first team,” Richards said. “To say it doesn’t mean anything is exaggerating it, but it takes away a little bit when you’ve only played with one guy.”

As for what kind of playing level he expects to reach, Richards isn’t ruling anything out. He set career highs in points (80 in 2008-09) and goals (31 in 2009-10) during his time in Philadelphia, but never managed more than 44 points in Los Angeles and managed just five goals and 11 assists in 53 games with the Kings last season, which included a stint in the AHL.   

“Do I expect to get 80 points again? I don’t see why not,” Richards said. “I don’t see why I can’t play the way I did before.

“You just go with it. With a team like this you just try to do well with whatever position you get put into. Do I expect to be playing with Ovi in a couple weeks? That’s probably unrealistic. You just try to do your best with whatever position you’re put in.”

For now, Richards says he’s just happy to be playing hockey again. The fact it’s on a team with the best record in the NHL is a bonus.

“It’s just a lot of fun to be honest, whether it’s working out before practice or on the ice trying to get better, before games, during games, it’s just a good atmosphere to be around. It’s nice to be back.”

[RELATED: Richards' court date in Canada pushed back to next month]

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

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NBC Sports Washington

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.