Justin Williams is so effective yet so little noticed


NEWARK, N.J. — Justin Williams has found the perfect hiding spot for a man who relishes his space on the ice and privacy off it.

The first line.

What an ideal location to play hide-and-seek during the Stanley Cup Final. Even a day after the Kings’ forward set up linemate and center Anze Kopitar in overtime with a sensational no-look backhand pass in Game 1, there wasn’t a huge clamor for more time with Williams on Thursday.

Odd but interesting. Williams was not only the Kings’ second-leading scorer during the regular season but also is approachable and insightful in terms of breaking down the game.

“He goes unnoticed,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown, his other linemate. “He kind of likes it that way. I think it also helps him on the ice. Kopi draws the most attention of anybody on our team.”

Brown then had the line of the day, speaking about himself.

“And maybe I draw some attention,” he said. “Maybe not a threat-to-score standpoint. But I want-to-kill-you standpoint.”

Kings President and General Manager Dean Lombardi acquired Williams in 2009 from the Hurricanes in a three-way deal with the Oilers and Carolina. It was not merely for his obvious offensive abilities but his leadership qualities. Williams was with the Hurricanes when they won the Cup in 2006.

“It’s kind of funny, Willie is Willie. You’re right, now that I think about it,” said Lombardi, referring to the lack of recognition. “His experience is invaluable. It takes on another dimension that goes beyond his play.

“When he was available — it wasn’t only him as a player and knowing him — it was knowing he had a ring on his finger. That kind of stuff that you are really counting on now — to calm things down when you have a young team with a lot of nerves.”

The Kings are 9-0 on the road in the playoffs, and Game 2 of the Final is here on Saturday. Williams has eight points in his last nine games, six of them assists, including the standout pass that set up Kopitar’s breakaway.

In the Western Conference Final, Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal had singled out Williams for his skill after Game 1 and said he was underrated. Williams still remembered that comment and the source of it.

“That’s a huge compliment,” he said. “I appreciate everything I get and I’ve worked hard for everything.”

Said defenseman Matt Greene: “He gets credit in the room and he’s done a great job for us. He does a lot of the dirty work for those guys to get pucks to them. He’s a guy who is pivotal on that line.”

And that last pass?

“It was unbelievable,” Green said. “He finds a way to get things done.”

Ode to Lidstrom

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty spoke about the impact that defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom had on the Detroit Red Wings and young players such as himself. Lidstrom, who played 20 seasons in Detroit and won four Cups, announced his retirement Thursday.

“He had an unbelievable career,” Doughty said. “Growing up as a young kid, I looked up to him. He’s one of the best defensemen ever to play the game and he deserves all the credit he gets.... There were times I would watch videos of him during my first year in the league just to kind of see how positionally good he was and just learn those kinds of things from him.”

Greene, who grew up in Michigan, talked about Lidstrom’s body of work

“You look at everything he’s accomplished — that’s hard to compare anybody to him,” Greene said. “You can say somebody does one thing like him but not everything like him. He’s unbelievable. He’s in a different class than just about any other defenseman who has ever played the game.”

Said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter: “He was a hard guy to coach against. I did it lots being in Chicago, then San Jose, Calgary. I coached against him a lot in big games, home, road, all those things. He was a frustrating guy to coach against because you could never get to Nicklas Lidstrom. Couldn’t get to him. Didn’t matter how you forechecked, what you set up, what you did. He was one of the few guys ever that could control a game from the defensive standpoint.”