As if he were charging full steam up ice, Justin Williams
wants to move forward and not look back.
A two-time 30-goal scorer in the not-so-distant past, Williams has also been hampered by injuries in his career with the latest infirmities limiting him to a total of 81 games the past two seasons.
So it's understandable that Williams is a bit reticent to talk about his battles to stay off the training table and would rather discuss his prime role with the Los Angeles Kings this season.
"It's been a tough couple of years for me," Williams said after a recent practice during training camp. "There's nothing more to say about it."
The list of injuries that the 27-year-old winger has had to overcome is long. Broken finger. Sprained left knee. Broken wrist. Torn ACL. Ruptured Achilles tendon. Broken hand.
Williams knows all of that doesn't paint a pretty picture. Even though he came into his own with the Carolina Hurricanes, it didn't keep them from including him in a three-way deal with Los Angeles and Edmonton to reacquire grinding winger Erik Cole.
When the Kings picked him up at the trade deadline, Williams was still sidelined because of the broken hand he suffered last February when he was hit by teammate Anton Babchuk's slap shot in a game against Buffalo.
Ironically, Williams had played 205 consecutive games before he ruptured his Achilles tendon during the 'Canes training camp. Asked for an explanation for the injuries, he said, "I like to attribute that to freak accidents."
"Especially the last one," Williams said. "That was really the gut buster. Being healthy coming into training camp last year and busting my Achilles on a training-camp test. As much as broken bones, those are long-term surgery injuries -- ones I don't wish upon anyone. But I feel everything does happen for a reason. Everything was there for me to overcome and I overcame it. It's a big year for me to step in the right direction again."
Kings coach Terry Murray knows what kind of player he has – when he's on the ice. In the two years that Williams played all 82 games, the former 2000 first-round pick scored 31 and 33 goals, respectively. He had a career-high 76 points in the 2005-06 season when Carolina won the Stanley Cup.
"He's a good player," Murray said. "He's a very talented player. He can put up pretty good numbers when he gets himself going. I think he's working through the injury from last year. He started to show some signs last season at the end of the year when he was playing the kind of game that he plays, just not on a consistent level."
Said Kings captain Dustin Brown
: "He's won a Cup. He's scored 30 goals a couple of times in this League. Not many people can do that, not many people can say that."
Murray has already put Williams on a potential top line with center Anze Kopitar
and left wing Ryan Smyth. Williams acknowledges that he's been given a chance to shine again.
"I know my skills are there," he said. "I know my talent's still there. And I know my health is still there. Being a guy that's going to be relied on to score point and to contribute offensively as much as I need to, there's no reason why I can't do that and pick up from where I left off a couple of years ago."
Now it's time for Williams to move forward. He's hoping he won't have to take another two steps back.
"I need to get back on the right path again and start that," he said. "And everything will be forgotten. Those two years will be behind me. No one will talk about (injuries) anymore for the next two years of my contract here. I've got to put that in the rearview and get back on the track to a healthy and consistent career."
Author: Eric Stephens | NHL.com Correspondent