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HELENE ELLIOTT

Kings put on a show for new teammate

With Justin Williams watching, the Kings rally from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Dallas Stars, 5-4, in overtime.

March 06, 2009|HELENE ELLIOTT

Justin Williams looked every bit the successful young businessman Thursday, wearing a dark suit and light shirt that echoed his claim of being a blue-collar player.

He also looked as if he was destined to be a King, because he was wearing a plastic splint on his left hand, protecting the broken bone he suffered when he was struck by a teammate's shot while with Carolina.

Williams, the Kings' only deadline-day trade acquisition, was greeted at the airport by assistant general manager Ron Hextall. He was greeted at Staples Center by team doctors and an X-ray machine, and he's scheduled to see a hand specialist today.

"From there we'll make a decision on what the game plan's going to be," he said. "But it will be three weeks this weekend, so broken bone timetables are usually pretty set, you know, four-to-six weeks, so I'm hoping to get back as soon as I can and help the team."

The Kings did their part to still be playoff contenders when he returns. Michal Handzus' third goal of the game, a jam shot from the side of the net 1:31 into overtime, lifted the Kings to a surprising 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars and moved them five points out of eighth in the West.

Shaking off a four-game losing streak and a 3-0 second-period deficit, the Kings came to life in the third period after the Stars took a bevy of needless penalties.

Handzus cut Dallas' lead to 4-3 on a wrist shot during a five-on-three advantage at 16:42, and Anze Kopitar tied it with 13.1 seconds left when he played the puck off a broken stick lying on the ice and took a shot that deflected off Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas past a beleaguered Marty Turco.

Handzus then won it, touching off a roar that rocked Staples Center.

The winning goaltender was Jonathan Quick, who came off the bench to start the third period. He replaced Erik Ersberg, who signed a two-year, $1.5-million contract extension Wednesday.

Ersberg gave up four goals on 19 shots, including goals on consecutive shots by Mike Ribeiro and rookie James Neal 1:25 apart in the second period.

But the Kings battled back, probably too late to make the playoffs, but a welcome sign that they have some pride.

Williams used the word "excited" several times to describe his reaction to being traded here, and he had more reason to feel that way after watching his teammates rally. The main difference between playing for Carolina and the Kings is that he will be a sort of elder statesman on a very young team.

"When they told me I was coming here and that I was going to be one of the older guys I kind of had to take that aback a little bit and realize that I'm going to be a more veteran guy on this team," said Williams, who is listed at 5 feet 11 and 161 pounds but looks smaller.

"I'm going to be one of the older guys. I've won a few more games and I'm a little bit more experienced, but I'm looking to go out and be myself. I'm not looking to try to be anybody that I'm not."

If he can be what he was -- a skillful and smart player who scored 31 goals in 2005-06 and 33 goals in 2006-07 -- General Manager Dean Lombardi will be happy.

There's no guarantee that will happen. He had major reconstructive knee surgery and missed half of last season. He returned in September only to tear an Achilles' tendon. He recovered in time to play 32 games for Carolina, scoring three goals and 10 points.

Williams, a 2000 first-round draft pick by the Flyers, didn't hesitate when asked if he had more 30-goal seasons left in him.

"I've got plenty," he said. "I'm only 27 and my best years hopefully are right ahead of me."

Those kinds of seasons must happen for the Kings to take the next step in their evolution. Acquiring him was an attempt to say they're past the initial, painful building stage.

Typical of the Kings, though, the trade is anything but a sure shot. And it cost them Patrick O'Sullivan, a talented and promising 24-year-old forward.

Williams said he is "semi-familiar" with the area, having trained in California for two summers. He doesn't know many of his new teammates and barely had time to say hello, but he's ready to plunge into a new situation.

"Coming to a team that is such an uphill climb -- not meaning uphill like hard, uphill that they're really going places and things are looking in the right direction -- everything seems so positive," he said. "That's what made me really excited."

He may have a playoff scramble to keep that excitement going.

--

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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