Florida Panthers v Los Angeles Kings

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
AP Photo
Leave a comment

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Here are the highlights from Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Colorado:

The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (NHL.com)

Frederik Andersen may have the Anaheim Ducks’ starting job for now, but with John Gibson still a big part of their plans, Andersen has to keep proving himself. (Orange County Register)

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.