LOS ANGELES — Mike Richards has been in Los Angeles for less than a year, but he has a pretty good idea what 45 years of simmering frustration will sound like when his Kings take the ice with the Stanley Cup in reach.
"That's probably one of the loudest rinks I've ever played in, and it's going to be even louder (tonight)," the center said Sunday, anticipating the energy at Staples Center for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.
After wins in the first two games in New Jersey, Los Angeles is two wins from claiming the franchise's first title and burying 41/2 decades of ineptitude interrupted only by short stretches of brilliance from Wayne Gretzky, Marcel Dionne and a few other stars.
These Kings are on a 14-2 playoff run that has few NHL equals. It includes the longest run of road perfection in league playoff history, 10-0 this season, 12-0 dating to last season.
"I don't think I've ever been on a team like this where everybody is locked in," said Jeff Carter, who, with Richards, was with the Flyers when they made the 2010 Cup final against the Blackhawks and lost in six games.
Richards and Carter, once considered cornerstones of the Flyers for years to come, were traded in stunning deals last summer, Richards to the Kings and Carter to the Blue Jackets.
Carter, miserable in Columbus and often hurt, was traded to Los Angeles near the deadline. Rejuvenated with the Kings, his persistence on the puck led to the overtime goal that won Game 2.
"Everybody knows what they need to do to go out on the ice and get it done," he said.
Richards said the '10 Cup loss still rankles him. "That was a tough time. I still think about what could have been."
The Kings are acutely aware their final job is only half done. Coach Darryl Sutter, hired in December after Terry Murray was fired, spoke with his players on the cross-country flight home after their Game 2 overtime win about the importance of improving even now, about realizing their two-month effort isn't over.
"It's been a long time for these guys," Carter said. "I think (a Cup) would mean the world to this franchise. They've done a great job of sticking to the plan here and building this organization, and this would be the reward."
thomas to take leave: Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas said Sunday he'll sit out next season "to reconnect with the three F's: friends, family and faith." On his Facebook page, the 2011 playoff MVP and two-time Vezina Trophy winner as the league's top goalie said, "At the age of 38, I believe it is time to put my time and energies into those areas and relationships that I have neglected." He also said he would continue training.
General manager Peter Chiarelli said Friday that Thomas told the team he was thinking about sitting out next season. Thomas has one year left on his contract, with a $5 million salary cap hit.
The Bruins are left looking at Tukka Rask and Anton Khudobin as their top goaltenders for next season. Rask, long projected as a rising star, can be a restricted free agent July 1. He supplanted Thomas as the starter in 2009-10, but Thomas regained the position the next season.