Could Justin Williams return for the Kings by playoff time?

The Los Angeles Kings hope to clinch a playoff spot against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight, but many rightly wonder how much damage this team can cause without their two most dangerous scorers: Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. When Williams dislocated his shoulder on March 22nd, the team announced that he would miss about month. There is good news for the Kings, though, as Rich Hammond reports that he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery.

In fact, coach Terry Murray told Hammond that the team might be able to “shave a week” off of that estimate. In other words, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see Williams gut out his injury once the Kings begin their first round playoff series* next week.

Before Kings fans pencil in the return of their most prolific scoring winger (57 points in 73 games played), it’s important to note that he might have a setback or two. Hammond notes that although Williams participated in drills and shot the puck during practice, he was doing so in a non-contact jersey.

Playing through the rugged Western Conference playoffs will be the ultimate test for Williams’ shoulder. If Los Angeles earns the fourth or fifth seed, they’ll likely play against either the Coyotes or the Nashville Predators, two teams who will force Williams to fight for every inch of the ice when he’s in the offensive zone.

Overall, it’s too early to say if he will be ready for the first game (or even the second … or even the first round) of the playoffs, but the Kings would love to see him back when the games matter the most.

* If they qualify for the playoffs, of course.

Auston Matthews’ 33rd goal includes a dash of comedy (Video)

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

So far, it shows, too.

The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

Ouch, Blues consider Paul Stastny out week-to-week

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The St. Louis Blues announced that Paul Stastny is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during last night’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, head coach Mike Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious.

There are only about three weeks left in the regular season, so it’s tough to tell if “week-to-week” would mean that the Blues will be without Stastny for any playoff time.

With Stastny out for an expended period of time and other injuries affecting Blues forwards, it sounds like Nail Yakupov gets another chance to prove himself:

Stastny generated 18 goals and 40 points in 66 games so far this season. He has played more of a defensive role this season (46.2 offensive zone start percentage after being closer to 50 earlier in his Blues days) and has been impressive in the dot, winning 53.8 of his faceoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Islanders at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.

As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.

While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.

Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.

It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.