Kings' Justin Williams "ready to become a hockey player again." Are his teammates?
Winger Justin Williams, who broke his right ankle Dec. 26, has been given clearance to practice all-out and will accompany the Kings on their trip to Chicago and Dallas this week so he can in get some intense scrimmages and workouts.
“He’s been given the green light to become a hockey player again,” Coach Terry Murray said.
Now, if only some of the Kings’ Olympians would become the players they were before the Games, Murray might crack a smile.
Speaking before the Kings faced the Columbus Blue Jackets Monday at Staples Center, Murray said he doesn’t sense that players who were at the Olympics have entirely refocused on the NHL and are at the levels of sharpness he needs them to attain.
“Not yet. I think that there’s a little bit of backwash from that two weeks away,” he said. “It’s a very demanding, very intense concentration maybe off just a tad. And we need to have it back here tonight.”
He said goaltender Jonathan Quick, who dressed for only one game in Vancouver and otherwise was the third U.S. goalie, showed some rust in the Kings’ 4-2 loss to Montreal on Saturday.
“I think he needs to be a little bit more composed. I think the first goal and the third goal, right at the start of the period, were plays he normally would have covered,” Murray said of goals Montreal scored 22 seconds into the first period and 36 seconds into the third. “I think he’s just maybe a little late getting there with the right play. It’s getting better. It’s coming. We’re staying with him. He’s the guy for us. He’s got to play through it.”
Murray said he planned no lineup changes to start Monday’s game but he often juggles his line combinations and defense pairs during games and indicated he might do that again.
The lines that start against Columbus would be the same as last game, but he added, “Probably not as patient as I was the last game. Not meaning that I’m going to put people down but maybe just make a change with combinations. This is a big game for us, an important game, and we want to get everybody’s attention.”
His planned defense pairs—at least initially—were Rob Scuderi-Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson-Sean O’Donnell and Randy Jones-Matt Greene.
The Johnson-Doughty pair he used early against Montreal didn’t last the full game, but Murray said he might reunite them sometime.
“There’s a couple games they played extremely well together and then we start off against Montreal, the first goal, we just had a tough time getting to that right level of play that satisfied me, and so we made the change in the game,” Murray said.
“Doesn’t mean we won’t go back to it. They’re two young guys that I think can play really well together and it just takes some time for it to happen.”
Murray also said Williams' return will depend on how he feels after getting heavy workloads in practice. "I think it's going to come around pretty quickly for him," Murray said.
More later at latimes.com/sports.
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Justin Williams. Credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times