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Williams Close to Return

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
It’s all going to come down to comfort and confidence for Justin Williams.

Williams, who suffered a dislocated shoulder three weeks ago, has been medically cleared to play, and it’s possible that he will be able to return to action when the Kings face San Jose on Thursday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Williams made it through a full-team practice Monday morning, but without contact, and afterward, coach Terry Murray said he would leave it up to Williams’ discretion as to whether the veteran winger would play against the Sharks on Thursday.

Justin Williams dislocated his shoulder late in the season vs. Calgary.  He may return for game one vs. San Jose.
``He's basically (been) given the green light to get himself ready,’’ Murray said after Monday’s practice. ``Now it comes down to, how does he feel? He's going to have to come to me and tell me that he's ready to go. That's going to be the bottom line. If that meeting happens after tomorrow's practice, then I'm absolutely going to take a look at it and try to pencil him in somewhere.''

Williams, who missed the final nine regular-season games, remains at risk for re-injury and would need to wear a protective shoulder harness in games. Williams didn’t tip his hand when asked about the possibility of returning to action in Game 1.

``I'll get into some more intense battling this week and we'll go from there,’’ Williams said. ``The coach and I and the training staff will make a decision about whether I can go or not.

``My (shoulder) strength is up to par and everything. I just need to get comfortable out there and not think about it and just see how it progresses throughout the week. If I go out there and I'm timid, I'm not going to do it. We'll just take it slowly and, if it happens, great. It's really tough sitting out playoff games, I know that, but I'll try my best.’’

Williams tied for second on the team with 57 points in the regular-season, and his return might boost a Kings offense that has been struggling without him and without top scorer Anze Kopitar, who is out for the season after undergoing ankle surgery.

Scott Parse does not have a timetable yet for his return from a lingering hip problem but could be ready soon.
Scott Parse also appears to be making progress. Parse has been out of the lineup since November because of a hip injury, but also participated in the full practice Monday.

Parse didn’t offer a timetable for his return, but Murray seemed to indicate that a return might be possible some time during the playoffs.

``It's probably going to come to him, same as we're talking about with Williams,’’ Murray said. ``He wanted to participate in the practice today. That's a very positive move on his part. I think, from the medical side of it, he's got a green light to push it. There's no restriction right now, so we'll get him through the next couple of days of practice and we'll see how his body is reacting and have a talk with him. That's about all I know.’’

For the second time in less than a month, Kyle Clifford sported a nasty shiner around his left eye, one that included some swelling, but Clifford practiced Monday and pronounced himself fine to play for the start of the first round.

``A souvenir,’’ Clifford said, referring to his purple eye-socket area.

Of the Kings’ regular 19 players, Clifford is one of five without any NHL playoff experience -- the others are Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez, Oscar Moller and Kevin Westgarth -- and, at age 20, Clifford is the youngest.

A year ago, Clifford participated in the junior-level Ontario Hockey League playoffs, then played seven games with Manchester in the AHL playoffs, but he is about to experience something completely new.

Kyle Clifford fights Sheldon Brookbank on Saturday night.
``I've been in playoffs before,’’ Clifford said. ``I've been with Manchester and Barrie, but nothing is going to compare to this. This is it right now. It's the biggest stage, and it's going to be real exciting.

``What happened in the past, that's the regular season. It's a whole different picture here. This is where I guess the men are separated from the boys here.’’

Who will win the special-teams battle in the first round? The Kings and Sharks, based on regular-season statistics, both have clear strengths and weaknesses.

The Kings finished fourth in the NHL in penalty-kill efficiency but 21st in power-play efficiency. On the other side, the Sharks finished second in power-play efficiency but 24th in penalty-kill efficiency. Staying out of the penalty box will be important for the Kings in terms of limiting the Sharks’ power-play opportunities.

``That's always important in the playoffs,’’ Murray said. ``You don't want to bring the referees into the game. You want to make sure you're playing the game the right way, hard between the whistles, and then you try to eliminate that hooking, reaching-in stuff that end up being cheap calls that you don't like to kill off as a team. So, knowing that going in, we know that (Sharks) power play is one of the best in the league. They showed us some unbelievable stuff in the last game that we played against them.

``Penalty killing is going to have to be really good. The reads are going to have to be sharp and right on the mark in order to get through any kind of penalty-kill situations that we have. I don't want to see us get into a situation where we're looking at relying on our penalty-kill guys too many times in the game.’’

The Kings announced today that all of their first-round playoff games will be broadcast on 570-AM, with the team of Nick Nickson and Daryl Evans. The team also announced that its partnership with usual flagship station 1150-AM has been extended for the next two seasons. The television schedule for Fox Sports West is still forthcoming.

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