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Bills' DE Williams upbeat after wrist surgery

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Bills' DE Williams upbeat after wrist surgery

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The surgery Mario Williams had to fix his sprained left wrist appears to have also done plenty in repairing the Buffalo Bills' high-priced defensive end's self-confidence.

Williams was in an upbeat mood Monday in discussing how much better he felt physically and mentally after rejoining the Bills following the team's bye week off, and six days after having arthroscopic surgery in Alabama.

``Nobody wants me to do better than me. So definitely, with this procedure, it's definitely given me a lot of hope and a different mindset,'' he said. ``I feel like I was stagnant. That's why I'm very excited to have been able to go clean it out and being optimistic about things.''

And that includes the NFL's highest-paid defensive player declaring himself ready to play on Sunday, when the Bills (3-4) travel to play the Houston Texans (6-1), Williams' former team.

``Oh, I'm definitely, definitely (playing). I'm not missing anything,'' he said. ``It uplifts me tremendously. ... I'm definitely excited. This is a great week.''

Williams returned to Buffalo on Sunday, when he visited the team's facility for treatment.

He was held out of practice on Monday with coach Chan Gailey saying the plan is for Williams to be back on the field for Wednesday's session.

``I talked to him, and he sounded very encouraged,'' Gailey said. ``Hopefully, he doesn't miss a beat.''

The injury had nagged Williams since he was hurt in the final week of the preseason in what he called ``a little freak deal.'' Williams said the initial prognosis was for the injury to take four to six weeks to heal.

When it became apparent his wrist wasn't getting any better, Williams said he elected to have surgery after consulting with the team's training staff, and after being assured he shouldn't miss any playing time.

Though feeling a little discomfort where the doctor made two incisions, Williams called the operation a success because he's already noticed an increased range of motion in his wrist. He'll continue to wear a protective cast during games, but Williams believes the surgery will make it easier to use his hands to shed blockers.

He added that the injury was also limiting his ability to lift weights and maintain his upper body strength, something he also relies upon as a pass-rusher.

``I'm a hands-on person, and everything I do is with my hands and working out,'' he said. ``And not being able to do that, mentally, has just been frustrating.''

Selected first overall by Houston in the 2006 draft, Williams had 53 career sacks in six seasons to set the Texans franchise record. Three days into free agency in March, signed a six-year, $100 million contract with Buffalo.

A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Williams has managed just 3 1/2 sacks and become the target of much of the blame for the Bills' defensive woes this season. Buffalo ranks 31st in the NFL in yards allowed and last against the run. That includes a four-game stretch in which the Bills have gone 1-3 and allowed 937 yards rushing.

Following a 35-34 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 21, veteran defensive end Chris Kelsay went public with his frustrations by questioning his teammates for taking plays off.

Williams acknowledged he's played below his own expectations.

``The biggest thing for me is that I know there's definitely a lot more pays that I have to get done,'' Williams said. ``I feel great about the possibility of finally being able to get to do things I didn't do from the very beginning of the season. And I look forward to it.''

Kelsay was encouraged to hear Williams was feeling better.

``It'll be great for us. He's a heck of a player,'' Kelsay said. ``It's good that he was able to take advantage of the bye and get healthy. So we're all looking forward to that.''

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NOTES: Gailey anticipates OL Chad Rinehart (left ankle) will be placed on season-ending injured reserve this week with rookie CB Ron Brooks filling the open roster spot. Brooks is eligible to return after opening the season on the IR/Designated for Return list after breaking his right foot during the preseason. ... The Bills could be down a CB after veteran Terrence McGee aggravated a knee injury against the Titans. ... Starting RG Kraig Urbik is expected to return after missing three games with a sprained right ankle.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

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