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The cat who had the hat comes back

December 21, 2010 |  3:10 pm

The last time the Kings played in Denver’s Pepsi Center, on Oct. 23, forward Brad Richardson played so well he worked his way up from the fourth line to the first line alongside Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown and recorded his first career hat trick in the team's 6-4 victory over the Avalanche.

Richardson, recently back from an upper-body injury, will start Tuesday’s game against Colorado on the left side with Kopitar and Brown. Whether he will still be skating alongside them by game’s end is another story.

"I seem to play on a lot of different lines," Richardson said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “Hopefully it goes well. I’ve played with them before and it’s pretty exciting. I’m just going to go do my thing and hopefully we get some results."

Richardson, valuable for his speed, energy, and ability to play center or left wing, was injured Dec. 9. He returned to play 12 minutes, 46 seconds against Chicago on Sunday.

“It was just a little one-week vacation, but not quite the way I planned,” he said. “I feel good. The last game I was winded at times but it felt good to get my legs back under me.”

The Kings could use more speed among their top six forwards and throughout the lineup. Colorado, which took a six-game winning streak into Tuesday’s game, has lots of speed and puts it to good use. The Avalanche, without a true elite player in the lineup, is the NHL’s most productive team, with 121 goals in its first 33 games.

“They’re a track-meet team. They’re a team that comes with a lot of speed, with four all the time on the rush, on the attack,” Kings Coach Terry Murray said. “They are a rush team. They make plays to the net with possession. They’re a real good transition team.

“That’s where you have to make strong plays again. They really come with those three very quickly. When they do dump, they have speed to get sweeping pressure over top of you. They’ve got a couple of guys who are going to make you pay the price on the physical part of it, a lot of sweeping pressure over top, looking more for you to show a lack of composure and maybe make the wrong decision with the puck. Go to the net very hard.... Everything is a shot mentality.”

Kind of what the Kings would like to do. And be.

We’ll have more from the finale of the Kings’ five-game trip later at www.latimes.com/sports.

-- Helene Elliott in Denver

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