The Hurricanes have entered Day 3 of the NHL’s Return-to-Play training camps as they prepare for the Bubble Postseason in Toronto.
Former captain and veteran winger Justin Williams is no stranger to playoff hockey and despite the new format, he is confident and ready to go on a deep run.
He spoke to the media over Zoom following Wednesday’s practice.
On how practice has been going: It’s going pretty smoothly. A lot of review right now. A lot of skating and getting back into shape. A lot of good times being around the guys and generally all of us are pretty excited about that.
On any surprises in terms of players so far at camp: I mean these guys have just been sitting on their couches eating Häagen-Dazs all the time. I mean everyone is out of shape. It’s embarrassing out there to be honest. (He laughed) I don’t know, I expect guys to be great and I expect guys to improve. I can only tell you if guys stink and nobody stinks out there.
On having eight NHL defensemen: It’s twofold. For as many games as we’re going to play, we need all of them. That’s first and foremost. Can all eight of them play the first game? Obviously not, but everyone is under the understanding that we’re going to need everybody. Not everybody is going to play right away, but everybody needs to be ready to play. It’s exciting as a forward to see the group we have back there. It’s going to be fun every time you get on the ice. Whoever you throw out there, they’re all top-four defensemen in my opinion. It’s gonna be heck for the other team, but it’s going to be a lot of fun for us.
On playoff beards: I don’t know what the protocol is. I don’t know how [Geekie] and Aho’s have gotten or how [Teravainen’s] beard has gotten. It’s always been an enjoyable thing to look at. Just watch and see the more successful you are the more your beard grows, but I feel in this day and age, 2020, everybody’s got a beard. So either everybody is a hell of a hockey player or people are just letting it go. We don’t really have a protocol for it.
On what they’ll wear pregame: At the end of the day it’s going to be up to [Brind’Amour]. Whatever he wants us to wear, we’ll wear. I don’t think we’ll be wearing suits. Maybe we’ll all just look like Tom Dundon and wear our tracksuits around and that will be our outfits, I don’t know. I’m for anything. The topic will be on the ice and it won’t be about the intro walk-in to the arena with your awesome suit, but that’s not really me anyway.
On how guys are interacting in the locker room: We’re alright. We’re wearing our masks when we have to wear our masks and while we’re working out we’re not. Not much has changed in the room. I have a big ping-pong game with Jaccob Slavin here in a little bit that I’m gonna dust him at, so nothing has really changed in that aspect. But, we’re doing our workouts, we’re going on the ice, we’re getting our treatments and we’re pushing through. A day at a time and that’s one I hate using, cause I’m not a big status-quo, junk-answer guy, but that’s what we’re doing. We’re doing it today and I don’t know what tomorrow is gonna bring. I don’t know what a week from today is going to bring, but as of right now, a day at a time.
On the majority of guys now having playoff experience: I think it’s extremely beneficial. The more experiences you have, the more you can lean on them. We had some great experiences last year and we had some great breakthroughs and guys learned about playoff hockey. That was really important and that’s what’s going to matter in a couple of weeks from now.
On the uniqueness of training camp: It is what it is. It’s the situation we’re dealt. I mean I didn’t think I’d be playing professional hockey at the end of July and August, maybe September if all goes well, but it’s different. It’s different for everybody. Everybody’s adapting. Everybody’s doing what they can.
On expecting the physicality of practice to ramp up: Absolutely. It’s the first hits that really get you. The first ones in the exhibition games, when you realize there’s contact in this game, that’s when you really start to get a little more winded out there. [Brind’Amour] is on top of it, the coaching staff is on top of it, but we’re going to get more physical as we move along. We’re going to work on special teams more as we move along and they have a great plan for us. No doubt we are going to be prepared.