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Kings' Mike Richards taking it slow while recovering from injury

December 17, 2011 | 10:50 am

Center Mike Richards, who suffered a head injury on Dec. 1 and hasn’t played since then, skated hard with the Kings’ extra players Saturday at Joe Louis Arena before the team's game against the Red Wings.

Richards hasn’t been cleared for contact but he was cleared to skate and try to maintain his physical condition. The key will be how he feels the rest of the day, which will signal whether he can continue to push himself.

Richards said he feels better, but he knows he must be patient.

“It’s still a process,” he said. “I think you can only go on how you feel. There’s never a timeline, which is the frustrating part of it. Whenever you feel ready to play you can play.”

He said he didn’t feel quite right but wasn’t sure if that was an offshoot of the injury.

“It’s hard to distinguish whether it’s taking two weeks off and going out there and skating or if it’s lingering effects but we’re going to take it slow,” he said. “We’re going to skate a couple times and see how I feel after that. I obviously hope to be back sooner than later…

“It’s really hard taking two weeks off from skating. You could ride the bike as many times as you want but it’s not the same as simulating a game or on-ice skating.

"It went pretty good out there. It felt all right. Just a couple of spots where I was a little bit dazed but that could just be not skating for two weeks too. Or jet lag. Or all of the above.”

Being around the team, he said, should help lift his spirits. He flew to Detroit and arrived late Friday and will stay with the team through Monday’s trip finale at Toronto.

“It’s nice to be around the team. You never like being away from them,’ he said. “I went home to clear my head a bit for a couple days and get some rest and try to recoup a little bit and come out here and meet the team.”

Coach John Stevens said he will wait to see how Richards reacts to the workout before determining any other plans.

Stevens made one change to the lineup from Thursday's game at Detroit, inserting winger Trent Hunter in place of center Andrei Loktionov. Defenseman Slava Voynov will sit for the second straight game.

“We like Lokti. We think he’s going to be a good player in the league,” Stevens said. “I think in order to do that he’s got to be an extremely competitive player that wins puck battles and wants to hang onto the puck and makes plays. As any young player he’s going to get better defensively. I don’t think he’s been at that level that we expect from him, and I think it’s good for young players to step back and watch a game and learn from it.

“That message has been communicated to him clearly. And again, we think the world of him but when you have healthy players on the sidelines that are very hungry to play, it doesn’t matter if it’s Lokti or somebody else, if the level drops off I think it’s important to make the change.”

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Photo: Kings center Mike Richards pumps his fist after scoring a goal against Nashville on Nov. 8. Credit: Bret Hartman / Associated Press