Richards, Carter doing just fine, thanks

Posted: February 03, 2014

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Claude Giroux and the four other Flyers who remain from the 2010 Stanley Cup final roster glided onto the ice yesterday afternoon at the Toyota Sports Center.

Above them, hanging on the wall atop the benches, was a large photo of the Kings huddled around the Stanley Cup.

You have to squint to see them, their familiar toothless grins hidden behind grizzly playoff beards. But Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are lying next to each other - as it has almost always been.

The picture is a poignant reminder of how close the Flyers were five seasons ago against Chicago and how far away Richards and Carter have drifted.

Three seasons after their franchise-altering trades, the shock has worn off. But the tease of what could have been remains.

"We came close in Philly," Carter said. "There were a lot of good memories. I think when you win, you see what it takes. You see how hard it is. You look back on that Chicago series and think about some stuff, but it's not an easy thing to [win]."

The boys are doing just fine, thanks.

The Flyers will face Carter and Richards together with the Kings this afternoon at Staples Center for the first time since those nearly simultaneous deals of June 24, 2011. It will be Carter's first game against the Flyers.

Remember when it took Carter more than a week to come out of hiding after the deal? His agent claimed Carter was told by Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren days before the deals he would not be traded. That is all gone.

Years later, any of the emotion or vitriol that existed after the trades is long gone. Richards quickly got it out of his system after returning to Philadelphia on Oct. 15, 2011, four games into his Kings career.

"After that, you're kind of done with the Flyers," Richards said. "I remember before that game, I was nervous for the first time in a while. Then, I think you kind of move on. You don't have to play them anymore. You don't have to talk about it. You don't have to think about it. That year ended well, but we went through some tough times."

Carter, now 29, was sent to Columbus. He lasted only 39 games before asking out. Last week, playing against the Blue Jackets, he was lustily booed every time he touched the puck.

Richards, now 28, landed in Los Angeles. The Kings sputtered. Terry Murray was fired in December. 'Richie' and 'Carts' were reunited on Feb. 23. There would probably be no celebratory picture - or a replica Stanley Cup outside the Kings' dressing room - without both of them.

Who can forget Carter's playoff-best eight goals? Or Richards' stellar defense against Ryan Kesler, Shane Doan and Ilya Kovalchuk? Or how about Richards' thundering hit against Alexandre Burrows in the waning seconds of their opening-round series when they knocked off No. 1 seed Vancouver?

The way it all came full circle still baffles the two of them.

"It was a tough start," Carter said. "I put it behind me 3 years ago when it happened. Things worked out for us. I was happy to get the opportunity to come here. It's a great situation here. A great place to live and a great place to play hockey."

Los Angeles is one of hockey's hidden gems for players. The travel is grueling and the attention is limited. But the Kings spend much of their time in El Segundo, close to the Pacific Ocean and near LAX Airport, a harbor from most of the traffic and a lot of California's white noise.

Richards lives in Manhattan Beach. Not surprising, Carter is one town over in Hermosa Beach. When Carter was told Flyers fans still talk about the two of them, he said, "They can't drop it, I guess, 'eh?" They aren't the only ones, apparently.

"It's different," Richards said. "On the East Coast, it's city living. You're walking everywhere. There's pros and cons to everything. We've got lots of sunshine every day.

"But I still miss Philly. I've still got a lot of friends there. I still love the city. But there's different things that you like and different things that you still wish you were in Philly for."

The two teams play in different conferences. On different coasts. The Flyers are out of sight, yes. Out of mind? Not completely.

But that's not to say Richards and Carter would trade in their Cup rings. Or erase their faces from that photo.

"That day with the Cup is pretty special. I had almost 2 days with it," Richards said. "It's something you want to have happen to you again. Doing it with Jeff was obviously special, too. You set your career out, planning to win with him. And then to do it here, it was obviously not the city that we envisioned. But I think everything happens for a reason."

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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