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Old friend returns to Hockeytown

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT -- The Columbus Blue Jackets are a familiar foe by now. The Red Wings faced their conference rival six times this season; eight times prior to this season’s scheduling changes.  But one of the names on the Jackets’ roster should look more familiar then the rest when Round 1 commences tonight.

Right winger Jason Williams spent the better part of six seasons with the Wings, until he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Kyle Calder at 2007 trade deadline. After bouncing between the Blackhawks and the Atlanta Thrashers, he found himself in Columbus in time to face his first NHL club in the playoffs.

Red Wings' Jason Williams
“I’ve played against (the Wings) so many times now that I think I’ve gotten used to it,” Williams said.  “Playoffs are a little different.  You can look at it as just like any other game, just a little more important, that’s all. I’ve kind of gotten used to it, being on the visiting side now, and just look at it almost like any other game.”

Williams, 29, spent 41 games with the Thrashers before arriving in Columbus via a trade for Clay Wilson and a sixth-round pick in the 2009 draft.  In 39 games with the Blue Jackets, he had 12 goals and 17 assists.

“The guys in the room really welcomed me in, it was sort of an easy fit for me to come in and get settled,” Williams said.  “It’s sort of a younger team, an exciting team, and I just thought that coming in here, I wanted to make an impression right away, I’m playing with good linemates and stuff like that too, so that’s certainly helped.”

The Blue Jackets are not only a young team, but an inexperienced team as well.  They are making their first playoff appearance in franchise history this season.  Williams won a Stanley Cup with the Wings in 2002, making him one of the more experienced players on the roster.

“I don’t feel that old, but it seems like a few years ago I was always asking the questions,” he said. “Some guys have asked questions here or there, its more about different personal on the team and how they are and stuff, so I’m trying to help them out as much as possible.
Columbus' Jason Williams

“I learned from a lot of good people over on the Detroit side, so if I can pass on any kind of information then I’m going to try to do that.”

Though the Wings’ roster looks a bit different from Williams’ days with the club, he said that he still talks to many of the players, including Kris Draper, Dan Cleary and Kirk Maltby.

“I talk to Drapes, Clears, Malts … it hasn’t changed too much since obviously the last time I’ve been here. They find a way to have a contender every year, tip your hats off to their scouting staff and the way they draft and things like that. So we have a big task in hand, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Williams said that he understands why he was traded, and there’s no hard feelings towards the Wings’ organization. The right winger has 10 points in 15 games against his former club.  He scored the Blackhawks’ two goals in his first game against the Wings, a 6-2 Detroit victory on March 2, 2007.

“I’m just trying to do what I can, and I think that I’m trying to help my team win as much as possible,” Williams said. “There’s no hard feelings, or anything like that … It’s part of the business, trades happen. I have benefited from it, and they’ve benefited from it.”

Williams will help his squad go up against the defending Stanley Cup champions tonight, and he said that a good start is key for his inexperienced teammates.

“Any time you’re playing the defending Stanley Cup champions, you’re kind of always going to be the underdog,” he said. “It’s going to be a good series, if we get off to a good start I think that will help our confidence for the guys that don’t have a lot of playoff experience.  Anything can happen, but if we can get it to seven games, that’s a big key for us, because any of those games can go either way, and we have to make sure that we really stay disciplined. 

“Their power play is one of the best, and if we’re going to take undisciplined penalties they’ll find a way to beat us, and we’ll beat ourselves.”

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