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Justin Williams set to return for Kings

by Rick Sadowski
SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Los Angeles Kings expect to get a boost Thursday night with the return of forward Justin Williams for Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series opener against the San Jose Sharks.

The 29-year-old forward finished tied with Dustin Brown as the Kings' second-leading scorer with 57 points despite missing the final nine games with a dislocated right shoulder.

"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't able to go out and do my best," Williams said Thursday morning. "I'm only at my best when I'm making stuff happen down low. You're going to get hit and you're going to get bounced. It's playoff time and everything is amped up."

Williams' return is especially important for a team that lost leading scorer Anze Kopitar to a season-ending broken ankle on March 26 in a game against Colorado.

Williams, who was injured March 21 against Calgary, will wear a harness to protect his shoulder and realizes the Sharks will test him early and often.

"This is playoff time and everyone's hurt," he said. "Not everyone is 100 percent. You play 82 games to get to this point. The hardest part is getting in (the playoffs).

 "I'm coming back and I'm being counted on a lot on this team to provide some offense. I'm going to try and do that. If it doesn't happen, playoffs are the time for other guys to step up. We have a lot of guys who are able to do that."

Kings coach Terry Murray said he plans to reunite Williams with previous linemates Jarret Stoll and Ryan Smyth.

"It's a line that's been together for a bunch of games this year and they've played very well for us for quite long stretches in the season," Murray said. "Justin has been one of our top point-getters this year. He's a very skilled player and he can create a lot for other people. I think everybody is excited that he's back.

"He had to go through a lot to get back at this time. It's been three weeks where he's been off the ice pushing very hard to rehab it and to get his strength back. He's cleared, he's 100 percent strength-wise."

Williams' return should help a Kings power play that finished 21st in the NHL during the regular season. Five of his 22 goals came while on the man advantage.

"He will definitely play on the power play," Murray said. "Where is he going to fit in? Well, we'll find a place for him. His positioning as far as the look during the regular season is not going to change. We're not going to shake it up and say, 'We have to go to a different look now because he's coming back after three weeks.' It's important to be consistent in the group and to play the same way."

Oscar Moller will be the odd man out for the Kings. He had 1 assist in nine games after being summoned from Manchester in the American Hockey League when Williams got hurt.
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