The Washington Times - April 12, 2012, 04:56PM

BOSTON | It was no secret that one of the reasons the Washington Capitals signed Joel Ward last summer was because of his playoff performance with the Nashville Predators. Ward had seven goals and six assists in 12 playoff games last spring and overall is almost a point-a-game player in the postseason.

Wardo last year had a great playoff,” coach Dale Hunter said. “Some guys seem to raise their game in the playoffs and that’s what you’re looking for.”

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Ward, who signed a four-year, $12 million deal with the Caps on July 1, offered a bit of a different explanation.

It’s opportunity, basically,” he said. “I was playing on both sides and I was getting power play time and getting some net presence there. That’s definitely helpful for anybody that’s going to get opportunity to play. But obviously when you gain that little bit of confidence you see the puck very well and start to make a few plays.”

It’s unreasonable to suggest Ward will put up similar numbers for Washington this time around because he won’t get those kinds of opportunities. He’s not on the power play, not switching wings and will instead be relied on in a grinding role on the fourth line.

Ward got back into the Caps’ lineup on the final day of the season after being scratched for eight of the previous nine games. He has six goals and 12 assists this season.

But facing Boston may be the perfect kind of series for the 31-year-old, who certainly brings grit.

I think a big part of it’s just get in front of the net, and obviously try to lean on some bodies a little bit. Try to play a heavy-man’s game and just leaning on bodies down low and try to get some wear and tear and create opportunities when you can,” Ward said. “Playing a sandpaper-type game along the boards and keeping possession. I think puck possession’s going to be key. And obviously winning one on one battles.”