Richards once seemed destined for a long career in Philadelphia until the Flyers pulled off a shocking trade this summer, sending their former captain to Los Angeles in a blockbuster trade that came on the same day Philly had dealt sniper Jeff Carter to Columbus. In exchange for their former first-round pick, the Flyers landed forwards Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn as well as a second-round selection in the 2012 draft.
The 26-year-old Richards had spent his entire six-year career with the organization, and was named the franchise's 17th captain prior to the 2008-09 season. He departed Philadelphia with 133 goals, 349 points and 397 penalty minutes in 453 contests.
Richards will be remembered fondly by many in Philadelphia for helping the Flyers in their surprise run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. However, he does seem happy to have the pressure of wearing the 'C' in Philly behind him.
"It's nice to come in here and just focus on the games, rather than all the other stuff going on," Richards told the Kings' official website.
Richards had an excellent debut for LA, notching a goal and an assist in the club's 3-2 win over the New York Rangers on Oct. 7 in Sweden, but he has failed to record a point in each of the Kings' next two tilts.
Richards won't be the only ex-Flyer playing for the Kings tonight, as fellow LA forwards Simon Gagne and Justin Williams are also back in town. Gagne made a pair of All-Star appearances for Philly before getting traded to Tampa Bay in the summer of 2010. Williams left the City of Brotherly in a trade with Carolina during the 2003-04 season.
Like Richards, Gagne and Williams were both picked in the first round by the Flyers.
Flyers centerman Danny Briere expects Richards to be geared up for his first game against his former team.
"I think every competitive hockey player, and we all know Mike is, plays with a little bit of an edge when you're back in that situation," Briere told his team's website.
While the Kings are off to 1-1-1 start to the year, the Flyers have jumped out to a 3-0 start.
After recording a pair of wins on the road to begin 2011-12, Philadelphia notched a 5-4 victory over Vancouver in Wednesday's home opener. Andrej Meszaros scored the game-winner early in the third period as the Flyers held on for the win over last year's Western Conference champions.
Claude Giroux continued his torrid start to the season with his third goal in as many games along with two assists while Chris Pronger added a goal and an assist for the Flyers.
"I think it's a good start, but because we're a young team we're going to have moments where we're a little lax," said Pronger.
Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 36 shots to stay unbeaten as a Flyer. Bryzgalov, who signed a nine-year, $51 million deal with Philly in the summer, has started all three games and is expected to get the call again tonight. The former Anaheim and Phoenix netminder is 14-6-3 with a 2.30 goals-against average in his career against the Kings.
The Kings split a pair of games in Europe to open the season, beating the Rangers in Stockholm and losing in regulation to Buffalo in Germany. LA was then dealt a shootout loss in its first game of the year in North America, dropping a 2-1 decision in New Jersey. Ilya Kovalchuk scored the game-winner in the first round of the shootout for the Devils.
Gagne scored the lone goal for the Kings, who will play their first game of the year in Los Angeles in their next tilt this Tuesday against St. Louis. Jonathan Quick stopped 36-of-37 shots in the loss to the Devils.
Philadelphia and the Kings split a pair of meetings last season, with each club winning a game on the road. The Flyers have taken five of the last seven meetings in this series and LA has lost nine out of 11 in the City of Brotherly Love.