Two nights after defeating former coach Bruce Boudreau and the Anaheim Ducks, Reunion Week continues for the Capitals tonight when they take on the Los Angeles Kings inside Staples Center (10 p.m., Pregame Live, CSN).
Tonight’s matchup between the Caps (49-13-4, 102 points) and Kings (39-22-4, 82 points) marks the first time forwards Justin Williams and Mike Richards will be playing in Los Angeles since signing free-agent contracts with the Caps.
Williams, who won two Stanley Cups (2012 and 2014) with the Kings and was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP two years ago, likely will be embraced by the Staples Center crowd after agreeing to a two-year, $6.5 million contract with the Caps.
“They'll be booing every time I have the puck,” Williams, 34, joked with the Los Angeles Times.
It will be interesting to see the kind of reception Richards receives. The 31-year-old center also won two Cups with the Kings but had his contract terminated by the club after failing to live up to expectations on the ice and getting arrested for possession of a controlled substance last summer, a charge which has since been stayed in Canadian court. Williams signed a prorated one-year, $1 million contract with the Caps on Jan. 6.
Both players faced their former team back on Feb. 16 at Verizon Center, when Williams assisted on go-ahead goal in a 3-1 win. Williams told the Los Angeles Times he tried not to let his friendships with former teammates dull his competitive edge.
“I made a note not to make any eye contact, just focus on the game,” Williams said. “Or else I'd be … not helping my team. Puck drop, it's another game, but it's not another game for me.
“No matter who you play, you're always trying to send a message."
In parts of seven seasons in Los Angeles, Williams registered 266 points (103 goals, 163 assists) in 427 games and an additional 54 points (22 goals, 32 assists) in 73 playoff games.
As a Capital, Williams has played in all 66 games this season and is tied for third on the team in goals (19) and fourth in points (45) while averaging a minute more in ice time (16:46) than last season.
“I don't like thinking about it,” Williams said of his time in Los Angeles. “Because that's looking back and I find the best way to move on is to think about the future and the present.
"But in doing that, reflecting back, I enjoyed the best years of my career there. There's no shortage of friends and memories. They're tough games to play but games I want to win."
Richards spent parts of four seasons with the Kings, recording 133 points (46 goals, 87 assists) in 257 regular season games and an additional 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) in 61 playoff games. Since signing with the Caps on Jan. 6, Richards has one goal and one assist in 23 games while averaging 12:15 in ice time.
That ice time has been steadily climbing in the past five games, mostly because of the arrivals of Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik. In Monday night’s win over the Ducks, Richards logged 14:58, Winnik saw 16:11 and Beagle skated 16:45. All three ice times ranked higher than third-line wingers Jason Chimera (13:26) and Tom Wilson (11:26).
“I felt they were wearing certain people down,” Trotz said of Richards, Winnik and Beagle. “It was giving me a chance to extend my lineup. We went four (lines) deep all night. If you look down the line (ice time) was even across the board. We’re deep enough now to handle most situations.”
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