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Williams eager to play with 'pit bull' Oshie on Capitals

by Katie Brown

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals forwards Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie have seen a lot of each other over the years.

Oshie and Williams met often as Western Conference opponents with their former teams, the St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings. When they meet for the first time as teammates, Williams will have a little something to say to Oshie.

"I've played a lot against him," Williams said Friday. "We've played a couple playoff series together, that I'll remind him I ended up on top."

After six seasons with the Kings, Williams tested the free agent market and signed a two-year, $6.25 million contract with the Capitals on July 1. Two hours after his first conference call with reporters, Washington acquired Oshie from the Blues.

Williams said he was instantly excited when he heard the news that Oshie would be his  teammate.

"He's a little pit bull," Williams said. "He hits like a truck but he can stick-handle through a phone booth. [He's] a dynamic player offensively, but also a guy that plays hard as well."

One player Williams is happy to have on his side is Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who is known for slap shots and hard, bone-crushing hits.

"Usually you think of a defenseman or someone like that, but [Ovechkin] is hard to play against," Williams said. "I know he played against us in L.A. and he hit [Drew] Doughty about seven or eight times and Doughty was like, 'Holy smokes, enough.'"

As a player who's experienced a lot of success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, winning three championships, Williams said it was important to him to sign with a team that's headed in the right direction. Washington checked all the boxes in that regard, he said, and a conversation with Capitals coach Barry Trotz solidified that decision.

"He expressed that he felt I could be a big part of this team and help this team get over the hump," Williams said. "I want to be a part of a team that wants me and that I can be a big part of and has championship qualities. That's certainly why I'm here."

Training camp is two months away, but Williams is spending his time training and acclimating himself and his family to their surroundings.

"Going to a new team, it's different," Williams said. "It's going to be different for myself and my family. I've been in L.A. for six years. It was time to come back to the East Coast."

The Capitals hope the addition of Williams and his track record of postseason success will help propel them to a championship. Washington hasn't been to an Eastern Conference Final since 1998, the year it was swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the only Stanley Cup Final appearance in Capitals history.

Selected in the first round (No. 28) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2000 NHL Draft, Williams is a three-time Stanley Cup champion (once with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, twice with the Kings in 2012 and 2014); won the Conn Smythe trophy in 2014; and his 14 points in Game 7s are the most in NHL history.

"I have good numbers in Game 7s, but that's a product of great teams I've been on," Williams said. "We've won championships because of it. Game 7s are little plays here and there that make differences. It's miniscule things that add up to the end result. This team is close and I want to do what I can to help."

Washington is 4-10 in Game 7. Last season, the Capitals led the New York Rangers 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Second Round but lost three consecutive games, ending the season with a Game 7 loss at Madison Square Garden on May 13.

Williams knows a little bit about the composition of a good team, and he said the Capitals fit that profile. The formula for winning a championship, he said, is more than having the most talented roster.

"It's not just finding the best players; it's finding the right players for the team," Williams said. "If you have the right guys, the right fit and they're out there and they care about each other, you're going to have a successful team."

Williams is expected to play right wing on the second line, but he's willing to go wherever Trotz thinks is the best fit.

"I'm just going to come in and take it all in," Williams said. "I'm just going to be me. I'm not going to try to be someone I'm not. I'm here to be a piece and I hope it's going to be a good fit."

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