King enjoys renaissance

STEVE MACFARLANE, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

Kings GM Dean Lombardi knew what he was getting when he brought winger Justin Williams to Los Angeles.

But Williams wasn't so sure.

His confidence had hit an all-time low.

Coming back from a torn Achilles tendon about a month earlier than anticipated only to be sidelined again with a broken left hand when it was hit by a teammate's slapshot after 32 games last season, Williams wasn't sure what he'd done to deserve such cruel twists of fate.

Then fate started working in his favour when the three-way deal brought him to Southern California.

"L.A.'s given me a huge opportunity to come in and play heavy minutes, to be counted on for a lot of offence, and to be a smart defensive player. They believed in me when things weren't going right for me," said Williams, who, while toiling on the Kings top line this season, has looked a lot like former 30-goal scorer who helped the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup in 2006.

"A change of scenery sometimes is best for everyone. I've come in here and tried to do the best I can."

His best is pretty damn good. With eight goals and 24 points in 31 games, it's fair to suggest Williams is a key component in the Kings' surprise storming of the Western Conference standings.

He's developed great chemistry with 22-year-old Anze Kopitar, and with veteran winger Ryan Smyth before the former Oiler was injured. Hardly missing a beat with winger Alexander Frolov filling in for Smyth, the longest point drought for Williams this season has been a four-game stretch at the end of November.

Healthy for what he hopes will be a fifth NHL season with at least 70 games -- amid a 12-year career that's been plagued by broken bones and torn ligaments -- Williams is rediscovering his top form.

"I think, right now, I'm getting more comfortable than I have been in a long time on the ice," he said. "The more you play, the more confident you are with the puck. This game is all about confidence.

"I think I'm slowly starting to get mine back to where I want it to be."

Still in his prime years age-wise and with a contract that goes through to the end of next season, the boost he's been given by the Kings has been monumental.

"That's a huge lift when the organization has confidence in you," he said.

"I want to make them be proud. I want to reward them for their confidence in me."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA

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THREE STARS

AS CHOSEN BY STEVE MACFARLANE

MARK GIORDANO, FLAMES

Threw his body around in a personal battle with Dustin Brown to help set the tone.

MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF, FLAMES

Stoned the stars on a Kings team that has plenty of firepower up front.

MATT GREENE, KINGS

Veteran bluliner made life miserable for Flames who ventured into his corner.


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