Justin Williams and the Carolina Hurricanes take on the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Justin Williams helped the Los Angeles Kings win their only two Stanley Cup titles in franchise history. He's spent the past three seasons reminding the organization what a good player they had.
Williams will get his latest chance to torment his former team when the Carolina Hurricanes (12-9-4) visit the Kings (9-16-1) at Staples Center on Sunday night.
Williams has six points (one goal, five assists) in six games against the Kings since he left them following the 2014-15 season. The Washington Capitals and Hurricanes are a combined 3-1-2 in those games against the Kings.
Carolina traded Williams to the Kings late in the 2008-09 season in what turned out to be one of the best deals in the 11-year tenure of general manager Dean Lombardi.
Williams soon became one of their most valuable and popular players, leading them to Cups titles in 2012 and 2014, and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in the second championship run.
Many of his teammates on those championship teams still play in Los Angeles.
"You always remember the people you win with, always, and you remember each other as champions," Williams told the Washington Post prior to his first return to Staples Center in February 2016. "Obviously I have a lot of feelings -- good feelings -- towards my time there, but time marches on, and in this day and age, you're very rarely with one team for your whole career. I've moved on, and they have too."
Just as he arrived in Los Angeles at the perfect time, Williams seemed to have departed at the right period, signing with the Capitals in hopes of winning another championship. He just missed that goal when he signed with Carolina in the summer of 2017 and the Capitals went on to win the Stanley Cup last season.
The Kings, meanwhile, are 1-8 in playoff games since their last Stanley Cup championship. They are sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference standings with the fewest points in the NHL.
The Kings fired coach John Stevens following a 4-8-1 start, but are 5-8-0 under Willie Desjardins. They appeared to be gaining momentum after back-to-back wins against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday and the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, but lost on back-to-back nights to the Oilers on Thursday and the Calgary Flames on Friday.
"They're really disappointed after a loss and they're on edge, not happy about it at all, and that's the way they should be," Desjardins said.
One area that needs improvement for Los Angeles is its penalty kill. The unit is 19-for-32 over the past 10 games, dropping to 29th in the league at 72.7 percent. Los Angeles had the No. 1 penalty kill unit in the NHL last season (85.0).
Carolina is 23rd in the league in power-play efficiency at 16.5 percent.
The Hurricanes are 6-2-2 in their past 10 games and have held six of their past eight opponents to two goals or fewer. The Kings are last in the NHL at 2.12 goals a game.