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Blackhawks, Patrick Kane can learn from saga of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter

Hawks winger Patrick Kane skates by Dallas goalie Richard Bachman looking for scoring chance third period Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 loss

Hawks winger Patrick Kane skates by Dallas goalie Richard Bachman looking for a scoring chance in the third period of the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 loss to the the Dallas Stars Thursday February 23, 2012 at the United Center. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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Kings lead series 3-1
All games at 7 p.m. on Ch. 5

Game 1: Kings 2, at Devils 1 (OT)

Game 2: Kings 2, at Devils 1 (OT)

Game 3: at Kings 4, Devils 0

Game 4: Devils 3, at Kings 1

Saturday: at Devils

x-Monday: at Kings

x-Wednesday: at Devils

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Updated: July 10, 2012 6:09AM

NEWARK, N.J. — Should the Kings beat the Devils on Saturday in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals at the Prudential Center, the transformation will be complete for forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

The duo will have gone from young cornerstones and leaders of the Flyers with lucrative, long-term deals to expendable partiers/locker-room problems to Stanley Cup champions.

Richards and Carter always will have their naysayers. But they will be able to point to the Cup if the Kings, who lead the series 3-1, prevail, knowing they were key factors.

“We’re one win away from the Stanley Cup now,” Carter said. “It’s pretty exciting.”

The success of Richards and Carter should encourage the Blackhawks to remain patient with Patrick Kane, whose party-filled visit to Wisconsin — among several upsetting escapades — has prompted some in the organization to suggest he seek help.

It’s not easy to replace or obtain established standouts, and it would be damning to see them have success elsewhere.

Philadelphia had enough of Carter and Richards after a disappointing playoff run in 2011, a year after they lost to the Hawks in the finals. Richards was sent to the Kings and Carter to the Blue Jackets. The Flyers received good players in return, brought in an enigmatic goalie and had a solid, high-scoring season.

But it’s Richards and Carter who are getting that last laugh.

It’s hard to negate what Richards and Carter have meant to the Kings during the second half of the season and in the playoffs after general manager Dean Lombardi took chances on them.

Los Angeles’ leading roles belong to center Anze Kopitar, wing Dustin Brown and defenseman Drew Doughty, but Richards and Carter have been perfect support players.

A gritty, in-your-face type, Richards has given the Kings depth at center, picking up 13 points in 18 playoff games and allowing Kopitar to get better matchups. Carter was recently praised by president of business operations and former star Luc Robitaille as one of the reasons the Kings are where they are.

A former 46-goal scorer, Carter has been the additional threat Los Angeles desperately needed. The Kings were the worst offensive team in the league before Carter was acquired for defenseman Jack Johnson after a short, unhappy stint in Columbus.

“It was obviously a tough situation for us leaving Philly,” said Carter, who has scored two goals in the finals. “We loved it there. We loved our time. We signed long deals to potentially finish our careers there.

“It was a tough situation. We had a lot of thinking to do. It took a little while to get over that. It’s funny how things work out.”

That thinking meant growing up some. Even some Philadelphia writers mentioned in passing that they saw newfound maturity in the pair, which also was reunited with ex-Flyer Simon Gagne and former coach John Stevens in Los Angeles.

Winning changes everything, but so can going from invaluable to expendable overnight.

“For us to be traded at the same time was a lot of venting to each other,” Richards said. “But everything happens for a reason, and this is just how it happened for us.”

The Hawks can only hope that Kane — who has had more stories written about his maturity level than any other player — can experience something similar before their patience runs out.

For Kane, if he truly wants to remain in Chicago — as he so often says — the saga of Carter and Richards should tell him that any player is disposable. It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league.

Carter and Richards have the longest contracts on the Kings. Richards’ runs through 2020 with a $5.75 million cap hit. Carter is signed through 2022 with a $5,272,727 hit.

“We didn’t have that expectation [that we would be traded], especially with our contracts,” Richards said. “We didn’t expect this.”

But they’ll take it now.

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