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Williams Ready to Show What He Can Do

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Jason Williams got his name etched on the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2002 when he was 21 years old, in just his second year in the league.

The now 30-year-old forward hasn’t come close since during stints with Chicago, Atlanta, Columbus, Detroit (a second time) and Dallas. Williams knows from experience both what it takes to win that coveted silver chalice, and how difficult it is to compete for it each and every year.

He hopes to use that knowledge to help the Penguins, as the 10-year NHL veteran signed a one-year contract with the team on Tuesday.

Jason Williams (Getty Images)
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“The most exciting thing is just the opportunity to show what I can do and obviously to compete for a Stanley Cup,” he said. “Pittsburgh’s been one of those teams that battles for a Stanley Cup each and every year. They’re known for being one of the top organizations. A lot of players around the league want to play there because of the winning attitude that they have.

“I’ve always heard a lot of good things about Pittsburgh from former players, so I think just going there and knowing that it’s a first-class organization is great. It’s an opportunity I can hopefully take full advantage of.”

After dealing with a few tough breaks on the injury front these last two seasons, Williams is now fully recovered and ready to prove he’s deserving of a roster spot.

Last season was especially tough for Williams because of the timing of his injuries. With his first surgery occurring last August and his second surgery taking place last October, the season was already underway by the time he was cleared to return.

Because of that, his goal was simply to get back to the NHL as quickly as possible. He did just that after a two-month stint in the American Hockey League (AHL), signing with Dallas on Feb. 12 and going on to play 27 games with the Stars.

But now that he’s had ample time this offseason to rest and recover, Williams is ready to step up into a much bigger role for his new team.

“Now that I’ve had almost a full summer of recuperation, strength training and getting stronger again, I feel very healthy,” he said. “I know I can contribute. When I found out Pittsburgh was interested, I thought it would be a good fit. I’m hoping that I can go in, sort of turn some heads and earn a spot.

“I think I’ve proven that if I’m healthy, I can put up some pretty good numbers.”

Williams has appeared in 447 career regular-season games, scoring 93 goals, 132 assists and 225 points. He has reached double figures in goals during four of his past six seasons, with his best NHL season coming with Detroit in 2005-06.

Jason Williams won a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2002 (Getty Images)
That season he established careers highs across the board in games played (80), goals (21), assists (37) and points (58). Once that season ended, he competed for Team Canada at the World Championships alongside Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, posting two goals and seven points through nine games.

Williams is a smart, speedy, creative player who possesses a wicked shot. He and head coach Dan Bylsma have already discussed where the 5-foot-11, 192-pound forward could step in and contribute, and one area the pair discussed was the power play.

Thirty-two of Williams’ 93 career NHL goals have come on the power play. He feels most comfortable manning the point with the man advantage, as he can either utilize his shot or utilize his vision and smarts to find an open teammate.

“I’ve played the point on the power play for most of my career,” Williams said. “That’s one of the things I thrive on doing. It’s something I really enjoy. I’m hoping I can go into training camp and earn that spot where I can come in and help the power play.”

He also enjoys carrying the puck up the ice on the power play and helping his team set up in the offensive zone.

“I like to be bringing the puck up through the neutral zone, making that first pass,” he said. “I try to make (a forechecker) commit to me and then make that first pass on the tape so the next guy can gain the zone with ease.”

While Williams is excited for the possibilities of this upcoming season, he’s prepared to work harder than he ever has before to make sure they become realities.

“It’s all in my hands,” he said. “(Bylsma) can give me the opportunity, but what I do with the opportunity is up to me. I’m just going to try to come in and earn a spot. My work ethic will hopefully help me do that. I really have kind of been looking forward to getting training camp started and seeing what I can do out there.”
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