After practice today, Justin Williams declared himself ready to go for the start of the first round against San Jose. Williams, who missed the final nine regular-season games with a dislocated shoulder, gave Terry Murray the thumbs-up after today’s practice. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to determine exactly who Williams’ linemates will be, and who will come out of the lineup to make room for Williams, but for now, here’s what Williams and Murray said about Williams’ return…
WILLIAMS: “I’m as comfortable as I will ever be. I’m confident that I’m going to make an impact, and I don’t want to sit on the sidelines any more.”
Question: You knew you were medically cleared, but what was it like trying to prepare yourself mentally to come back?
WILLIAMS: “Everyone plays with injuries at this time of the year. Mine seems to be public knowledge, I guess. Nobody is 100 percent right now. They’ve got guys on their team that are banged up, too. I seem to have a little experience coming back from injuries. I haven’t been out for very long, and I’m confident I can be fine with it, so I’m going to go.”
Question: Was this the goal you had established, to come back for the start of the playoffs?
WILLIAMS: “I think I met that, yeah.”
Question: Was there any extra pressure, with Kopitar being out of the lineup?
WILLIAMS: “No, it had nothing to do with Kopitar being out, and whatnot. Even if he was playing, I’d be doing the same thing. I’m an important part of this team offensively, so if I feel I can help the team, I’m going to tell the coach I can play.”
And here are Murray’s thoughts regarding Williams’ return…
MURRAY: “He wanted to go, and that’s great news. We met yesterday, after the practice, and that was really our first conversation about, `How are you doing? Are you thinking about getting into the lineup? Are you thinking about playing? How are you doing emotionally, more importantly than anything else,’ because I know that he has physically been cleared by our team doctors. So that’s the hurdle that you always have to go through, as an injured player. He said, at that time, that he wanted to get through today’s practice, and give me some feedback on how that went, right away. I jumped in on that and said, `It has to be tomorrow.’ I don’t want to wait until the morning skate. You know your body, and you’ll know after the practice tomorrow.”
Question: Do you know where he might play?
MURRAY: “I don’t. I don’t know yet. This all just happened. That was the one thing, again, that we talked about yesterday. I would like to get him on a line in practice, so if you could let me know ahead of time, I could certainly make that arrangement very easily and quickly. But that’s OK. We’ll find a place.”
Question: What do you think he will be able to contribute, coming back?
MURRAY: “That was the conversation we had yesterday. It was important for him to understand my view on this thing too, that he is ready to commit and play the right way, the way he has been playing all season long. With the puck-possession game, he does some real good things below the hash marks with his little dangles that he can do, and create some scoring chances on his own, playing with linemates and making good plays. So it was important that he have that as a solid decision in his own mind, that he can do this stuff. So, knowing now that he’s ready to get going, he will have an impact in the sense that he’s an offensive player who can hold on to pucks in the offensive zone. He can play our game, the cycle game, and we take a lot of pride in that area of the offensive part of the game. He’s going to add to it, because of his creativity.”