The only Kings players wearing gray jerseys, Justin Williams and Scott Parse had a whole forward line to themselves Monday.
Call it the “Questionable Line.”
It’s too soon to say whether Williams or Parse will play when the Kings visit the San Jose Sharks on Thursday for Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. The prognosis was looking better for Williams in his return from a dislocated shoulder.
“My strength is up to par and everything,” he said after taking part in a full practice that included light contact. “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, whose 57 points and 35 assists (in 73 games) were second on the team, has not played since sustaining the injury March 21 against Calgary.
“I’ll get into some more intense battling this week and we’ll go from there,” he said. “The coach and I and the training staff will make a decision about whether I can go or not.”
Williams has shown he won’t let a little pain stand in the way of a playoff appearance. After breaking his leg in a December game against Phoenix, he rehabbed aggressively and was playing than three months later. Williams wasn’t nearly as efficient after returning from the injury and was benched for the final three games of the Kings’ playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks.
Kings coach Terry Murray, however, said it wasn’t fair to compare the two situations.
“It’s amazing what hockey players go through emotionally, mentally, once they get into the playoffs. … There’s a lot of injuries that guys will play through,” Murray said. “Over my history in this business, and seeing how players have played, the physical condition they have been in, it did not surprise me at all that Williams wanted to give it a try. I just think his injury was just so severe last year, he lost too much strength, too much power, to be able to get back to full strength and play the game the way he wanted to play.
“This is totally different to me. He’s been working out basically from the day he injured himself, doing the aerobic, the leg work, the power off the ice, now skating quite a bit here recently. He didn’t let his body get away from that kind of conditioning level that’s important to step in and play again.”
Parse, who was limited to five games in November and later underwent hip labrum surgery, took part in the full practice too. There may be less urgency to see the left wing return, but there may also be less reason to keep him out.
“It’s probably going to come to him right now,” Murray said of Parse. “He wanted to participate in the practice today. So that’s a very positive move on his part. From the medical side of it, he’s got a green light to push it. There’s no restriction right now. We’ll get him through the next couple days of practice, we’ll see how his body is reacting and have a talk with him.”
The Kings’ other lines in practice:
Dustin Penner- Michal Handzus – Dustin Brown
Ryan Smyth – Jarrett Stoll – Oscar Moller
Kyle Clifford – Brad Richardson – Wayne Simmonds
Alexei Ponikarovsky – Trevor Lewis – Kevin Westgarth