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Capitals' Williams plays 1,000th NHL game

Forward has overcome injuries early in career to reach milestone

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Regional Writer

WASHINGTON -- There was a time in Justin Williams' younger days when he couldn't seem to stay healthy.

Repeated injuries to his left knee, a torn Achilles tendon and a fractured ankle threatened to derail what has become a distinguished career. But the Washington Capitals right wing rebounded from them to reach a significant milestone Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks at Verizon Center. It was the 1,000th regular-season game in the NHL for Williams; he's the 304th player in League history to reach that mark.

"It is a very impressive number for a number of reasons," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "[One], it's hard to be a good player in this league for any length of time. Two, being healthy so you can accumulate those games over a number of years and be productive. When you're not productive, you seem to fall out of the league. So he's been able to do all three of those: staying productive, staying fairly healthy and playing a number of games at a very high level. Obviously, he's won some championships, which we'd love to do around here."

Video: ANA@WSH: Caps honor Williams for 1,000th game

Williams, 34, has won the Stanley Cup three times: with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014, when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Helping the Capitals win their first championship will be Williams' focus when they begin their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Caps took some time Sunday to honor him for reaching 1,000 games before they wrapped up the regular season.

During a pregame ceremony, NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Jim Gregory presented Williams with a commemorative Tiffany crystal and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis gave Williams a silver stick. Williams' teammates, represented by captain Alex Ovechkin and alternate captains Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Orpik, chipped in to give him a vacation for two to Scotland.

Ovechkin, Backstrom and Orpik were given the night off to rest up for the playoffs, but Williams was one of seven Capitals to play in all 82 regular-season games. Selected by the Flyers in the first round (No. 28) of the 2000 NHL Draft, the Cobourg, Ontario, native had a goal and two assists in his first game on Oct. 5, 2000, against the Vancouver Canucks. He entered Sunday with 249 goals and 385 assists for 634 points in 999 career games with the Flyers, Hurricanes, Kings and Capitals. That included 22 goals and 52 points this season.

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