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Wings counting on Brad Richards' return Friday

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Brad Richards

Detroit – Always on the lookout for more offense, the Red Wings could get a boost Friday against Los Angeles.

That's because forward Brad Richards (back) is returning after missing the last 13 games, out since Oct. 21. He skated hard on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Teemu Pulkkinen Thursday and is ready to play.

"It was good to practice on a line," Richards said. "As long as Blash (coach Jeff Blashill) and the training staff are OK with that, I'm going to bed hoping to play."

Said Blashill: "We practiced him as if he were going to be in (the lineup)."

Blashill is excited to have Richards returning, one more capable savvy, veteran player who can create offense.

"His points per game are great and he's got a great stick, a great offensive mind," said Blashill, who is optimistic that a pairing of Richards and Datsyuk can be productive.

Blashill put Richards, more a natural center, on the wing on this line – just as he did with Datsyuk upon his return.

"It's easier, in general, for a center to play wing; I don't think it's a real hard transition," Blashill said. "The other way sometimes is harder when you haven't played center for a while and then get thrown back into the middle, from a responsibility standpoint.

"More importantly, we're trying to find line combinations where we can continue to do a good job defending but also creating more offense."

Richards (who has two assists in six games) is looking forward to playing with Datsyuk.

"I just like playing with good hockey players," Richards said. "If I play with Pav, that'll make things easier. I pride myself on being able to read the ice. I've played more center, played some wing. You get to play with a centerman like that, hopefully we can figure something out (on the ice)."

Pulkkinen rewarded

How did Pulkkinen land a plum spot like playing with Richards and Datsyuk?

“The thing Pulkkinen is doing right now and the reason he’s there is he’s providing energy,” Blashill said. “He’s on the puck, skating hard on the track, so that will help those two (Richards, Datsyuk), having a guy with that type of energy.

“He (Pulkkinen) and (Dylan) Larkin are doing as a good job of it as anybody, so I wanted to get Pulkky more minutes that way, too.”

Format reviews

Players were enthusiastic about the NHL’s decision to revamp the All-Star Game into a 3-on-3 format with the divisions represented.

The NHL changed overtime to a 3-on-3 format this season in an effort to lessen the amount of games decided by a shootout.

“The idea of 3-on-3 is great,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “You can see in the games how exciting it is. The fans really enjoy it, too. I hope it’s something that’s here to stay.”

Ice chips

With Richards being activated, the Red Wings will send forward Andreas Athanasiou (one goal in six games) back to Grand Rapids.

... Brendan Smith (illness) practiced and is expected to return to Friday’s lineup against Los Angeles. Smith missed five games with strep throat-type symptoms.

“I’ve been just battling sickness,” Smith said. “We weren’t sure what it was for a while. I thought I could battle through it and practice but then it got worse. But I’m feeling better.”

... Goaltender Petr Mrazek will start against the Kings, and Jimmy Howard will start Saturday in St. Louis.

Kings at Red Wings

Faceoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Joe Louis Arena

TV / radio: FSD+ / 97.1 FM, 1270 AM

Outlook:  The Kings (12-6-0, 24 points) have won three consecutive games and seven of their last 10 (7-3-0). ... No team in the West has allowed fewer goals (38). ... The Kings have the No. 2-ranked penalty kill in the NHL (86.6 percent).