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Williams wants to help Capitals get over playoff hump

by Dan Rosen

It was a month ago when Justin Williams' 6-year-old son Jaxon told him if he wasn't going to play for the Los Angeles Kings anymore he should go play with Alex Ovechkin.

Daddy listened, and granted Jaxon's wish Thursday by signing a two-year, $6.5 million contract with the Washington Capitals.

"I know my son's happy," Williams said Friday. "He woke up this morning and said, 'Daddy, where are we playing?' I told him Washington and he was all smiles. That passed the test. I'm happy about that."

Williams passed the test for the Capitals too.

Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said he thinks Williams, a three-time Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2014, should be a perfect fit for the Capitals on the ice and in the dressing room.

Williams had 41 points in 81 games with the Los Angeles Kings last season. He spent the past six-plus seasons with the Kings, winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. He had 25 points in 26 games in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs to win the Conn Smythe. He also won the Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

Williams' teams are 7-0 in Game 7. He is the NHL's all-time leader in Game 7 points with 14 and is tied with Hockey Hall of Fame member Glenn Anderson for the most Game 7 goals with seven.

The Capitals are 3-6 in Game 7 since 2008.

"He has all the intangible qualities that we desire," MacLellan said. "Obviously, he has a great resume with the three Cups, the Conn Smythe and his performance in playoffs. All those things, plus what you hear about his character make him probably the perfect fit for our top six."

MacLellan said he thinks Williams would fit best playing on the second line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky because he'll provide a veteran presence that will help the two young forwards. However, MacLellan said he could see Williams fit on the top line if he establishes chemistry with Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin.

"I think he'll have a big effect on Kuznetsov and Burakovsky, and I also think he'll have a good effect on Ovi and Backstrom," MacLellan said. "It's good to have a guy that has won Cups and been through the wars as he has. He's won three Cups, so I think he'll have a big influence on our forward group."

Despite being 33 years old with 14 seasons of experience, Williams had never been an unrestricted free agent until this year. He said it was stressful, but he targeted the Capitals for hockey and family reasons. His wife is from just outside Philadelphia and they own a home in Ventnor, N.J.

Williams said a conversation with Capitals coach Barry Trotz convinced him Washington was his destination.

"As you go throughout the day constantly you're weighing pros and cons of the team you're at, the city you're in, the coach you're playing with, your potential role on the team," Williams said. "Obviously I felt like I'd be an important piece of that, and Barry just kind of tipped me over the edge and made me feel as if I would be. I had a great conversation with him. I have small children and a wife that I have to look to as well to try and make happy."

Because he wasn't in the playoffs last season, Williams had a chance to watch games. His takeaway of the Capitals was they were exciting, played hard, had the attitude he was looking for, and are close to finally getting over the hump. He hopes he can help get them there.

"Sometimes it's just a face in the room, an intangible quality. Sometimes it's certain guys stepping up and having a big game, making a big play," Williams said. "I just feel this team was so close last year. I know a lot of teams around the League feel that way. I don't know if I'm the answer, but I'm going to do my darndest to prove to everyone, to my teammates and myself, that I can be a difference-maker."

The Capitals should be getting a player with fresh legs. Williams couldn't have said the same thing last summer, after he finished a 26-game playoff grind. From 2012-14 he played in 275 games; the maximum number he could have played in was 296.

"I'm going to say the thing that everyone says -- I haven't felt better -- but it's true," Williams said. "My head was upset when I didn't make playoffs this year, but I think my body is saying 'Thank you.' I've had a lot of rest and I should be ready to go right out of the gate."


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