“Of course I’ve thought about it,” Williams said. “But it’s part of the schedule. You’ve got to play it.”
They were called “Stick and Rick” in Los Angeles. Williams and Richards left under vastly different circumstances, with Richards having a messy divorce from Los Angeles after his contract was terminated by the Kings. Out of the league for nearly nine months, he signed with the Capitals in early January. He’s hit his stride recently, centering a fourth line that’s recently drawn praise from Capitals Coach Barry Trotz.
“I’ve liked Richie,” Trotz said. “He’s really skating well, his hands, all of those things. Since we’ve put that line together with Daniel [Winnik] and [Jay Beagle], they’ve been a really great line.”
Williams departed on much more amicable terms, beloved after garnering the “Mr. Game 7” nickname for his success in such situations, a three-time Stanley Cup winner and 2014 playoffs MVP. His first experience with free agency whisked him away from Los Angeles because “they’ve got this thing called the ‘salary cap,’” he said at the time, and he signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract in Washington.
That meant moving his family, including his young son who grew up around the Kings and Southern California, across the country. It’s worked out even better than he expected, both off the ice and on it, where he’s scored 19 goals and 26 assists playing alongside center Evgeny Kuznetsov.
“It doesn’t really matter where it was going to be,” Williams said. “Anything other than there was going to be tough because you celebrated a lot of your success there. Made a lot of friends there, so anything with change is going to be tough. This is where I landed, and this is where I wanted to land.”
Williams has given his Capitals teammates suggestions for what to do in Southern California, taking some players to Selanne Steak Tavern in Laguna Beach on Sunday night. He intended on returning to a favorite sushi spot. Playing in Anaheim was normal, but Wednesday night will be filled with talk of “Mr. Game 7,” a nickname Williams has never been fond of.
“It’s such an individual name,” Williams said. “I’ve had success in that because I’ve been on great teams. I’ve been able to contribute come crunch time. It’s such an individualistic thing that I don’t really care for, and it puts the spotlight on me, which I don’t especially like.”
It’ll be on him again on Wednesday.
Here’s how the Capitals’ lineup is expected to look against the Kings on Wednesday night:
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams
Jason Chimera-Marcus Johansson-Tom Wilson
Daniel Winnik-Mike Richards-Jay Beagle
Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-Dmitry Orlov
Mike Weber-Taylor Chorney
Braden Holtby (starter)
John Carlson (lower-body)