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.

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