DENVER – “Mr. Game 7” is back in the Stanley Cup Finals, but in a very different role than before.
Three-time champion and 2014 playoff MVP Justin Williams joins NHL Network as guest analyst for Games 3 and 4 between the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s easy to talk about hockey — that’s all I know,” Williams told The Associated Press by phone Sunday. “I know about hockey. I’ve had a lot of experience of what’s going on in the dressing room and what the players are thinking and hopefully what needs to be done.”
Williams, who won the trophy with Carolina in 2006 and Los Angeles in 2012 and 14, is best known for his Game 7 heroics. He set an NHL record with 15 points and his team went 8-1 in those games.
He enters that series for Game 3 on Monday in Tampa, with the dominant Avalanche leading 2-0 against two-time defending champion Lightning, who needs to repeat his comeback in the Eastern Conference Finals to even force a Game 6.
“One team was really good and the other team has yet to show what they can do,” Williams said. “They fully expect a bounce back performance and more out of a game than what we saw in Game 2.”
Talking about hockey is no problem for the 40-year-old, who still has ties to the game as his children’s coach and an advisor to the Carolina Hurricanes. Happy with his decision to hang up his skates in 2020 are William’s new TV teammates Mike Johnson and Mike Rupp, and host Jamison Coyle, who have a combined 2,786 games of NHL experience and four cup rings under them.
“It’s going to be a no-brainer with these guys and I expect it to go really well,” Williams said. “You try to get your point across and come in, get out, let her carry it, and then if I have something thoughtful that I think is interesting to add to the group, I certainly will.”
Outside of his family and professional hockey commitments, Williams plays golf, tennis and enjoys the afterlife in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. When approached for a TV role, he figured it would be next season and jumped at the opportunity to have a cameo in the Stanley Cup Finals.
“I looked at the schedule and I thought I could do it and said why the hell not,” he said. “I dive into everything and see what I want to do when I grow up.”
BURAKOVSKY DOES NOT TRAVEL
Colorado coach Jared Bednar said injured forward Andre Burakovsky will be evaluated Sunday morning and will not fly with the team. Bednar said Burakovsky will join the Avalanche in Tampa on Monday.
Burakovsky, who scored the overtime winner in Game 1, has been playing with pain since blocking a shot in the West Finals opener against Edmonton. He didn’t put any weight on his right leg when rolling and needed help to get down the tunnel afterwards.
Bednar said center Nazem Kadri, who has been out since injuring his thumb during the Oilers series, has traveled with the team but has no further details on when he might be available for the game. Kadri continues to skate and has increased his activity by adding a stick and handling the puck more.
“I’m not sure about Naz’s schedule yet,” Bednar said. “We hope that we will see him at some point. As for Game 3 or Game 4, I’m not sure. We will see.”
AWARDS ON REQUEST
The Hart Trophy for league MVP and the rest of the NHL’s awards will be presented Tuesday night in Tampa. Colorado’s Cale Makar and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman are finalists for the Norris Trophy for Outstanding Defenseman, along with Nashville’s Roman Josi.
“I saw some of these guys during the regular season and even before I got into the league,” Makar said before the finals began. “It’s fun to compete against them. You can see them. It’s great to be on the ice with them.”
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