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First Round

Hurricanes looking to Williams for Game 7 edge against Capitals

Hope forward reprises clutch role in deciding contest of first-round series

by Kurt Dusterberg / NHL.com Correspondent

The Carolina Hurricanes already know there will be a high level of drama when they play the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Capital One Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS, NBCSW, FS-CR).

But they hope having forward Justin Williams, one of the most clutch performers in Stanley Cup Playoff history, will ratchet the drama even higher and give them an edge in deciding the best-of-7 series.

Williams has earned his Mr. Game 7 nickname. He has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in eight Game 7s, more than any player in NHL history.

 

[RELATED: Complete Capitals vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

And in 23 playoff games facing elimination during his NHL career, Williams has 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists), including a third-period goal in Carolina's 5-2 win at PNC Arena in Game 6 on Monday that extended the series.

"We won a game that we had to," said Williams, the Hurricanes captain. "We expected to do that. We expect to win next game too."

A big part of Carolina's success this season has been forged from the partnership between Williams and first-year coach Rod Brind'Amour. It began in 2006, when each had 18 playoff points to help Carolina win its only Cup title, with Brind'Amour the captain.

"Our relationship is great," Brind'Amour said. "It always has been, whether he was captain or not. We can talk to each other. He's given me a lot of tips this year, and I'll drag him in and show him [video]. It's been good."

Video: Williams' goal helps Carolina force decisive Game 7

The coach and the captain already have some Game 7 history with Carolina. Brind'Amour's third-period goal against the Buffalo Sabres in the 2006 Eastern Conference Final gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead. Brind'Amour then set up Williams in the final minute to clinch the series.

Moments like that are why Brind'Amour burns for a win Wednesday.

"Yeah, I remember those," he said. "It's the stuff that still gives you goose bumps thinking about it. And when you watch the emotions of the guys after scoring last night, that's why I'm [coaching]. I feel great for those guys. I've been there, I know how exciting it is. It's hard work, but it's worth it. I want it for those guys."

The Hurricanes trailed by a goal twice in Game 6.

"I played 1,600 games plus, but you remember four or five of them," said Brind'Amour, who played 1,484 NHL regular-season games and 159 in the playoffs. "Last night was one of those games. The guys who played in it will remember that game."

The Hurricanes hope to have injured forwards Andrei Svechnikov and Micheal Ferland back for Game 7. Svechnikov has not played since sustaining a concussion during a fight with Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin in Game 3.

"We'll put him through a good practice tomorrow morning and see what happens," Brind'Amour said.

Ferland has been out since leaving Game 3 with an upper-body injury. His status will be determined after practice Wednesday.

Brind'Amour is confident in the Hurricanes, who lost all four regular-season games to the Capitals but have traded home wins in the series against the defending Cup champions. He said it will come down to Carolina's special teams on the road. The Hurricanes are 1-for-13 on the power play at Washington; the Capitals are 5-for-12 at home.

"I know what type of team we are," Brind'Amour said. "[But] special teams have been the issue for us. If you separate those, the games are actually pretty tight. That is their ace in the hole. It's a huge part of their game. We have to figure a way to shut that down and still be better on our power play."

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