After missing the past three games as a healthy scratch, Mathieu Perreault will return to the Capitals’ lineup tonight against the Canadiens, the team he grew up cheering.
Only eight players took part in the morning skate, so it’s unclear where the pint-sized center will fit into the lineup. This much, however, is known: The past three weeks have been tough for Perreault.
After playing in 10 of Coach Dale Hunter’s first 12 games behind the bench, Perreault has suited up for only three of the past 10 and skated 9:53 or less in those contests.
“I’m just trying to stay positive, stay in shape, so every time I go on the ice I feel good,” Perreault said. “For sure it’s a tough position for me right now, being in and out. When I’m in, I only get six, seven minutes. But I knew it was going to be like that. I just try to deal with it and do my best.”
Perreault has three goals and four assists in 24 games this season, his first full NHL campaign. He's played mostly on the fourth line.
The 24-year-old Quebec native hopes to get a “boost” tonight from playing in front of 15 friends and family members, which will include his parents, brother and sister. Perreault grew up in Drummondville, which is about an hour northeast of Montreal.
“It gives you a boost,” he said. “And the fact that I haven’t played in a while, too, gives you a boost to try to get out there and do something, so I can be in the next game.”
He added: “There’s more pressure because you feel, ‘Hey, I’m back in. I’ve got to do good to be in next game.’ There’s always pressure in this game. It’s been like that for my whole life, so it’s nothing new.”
As frustrating as it's been, Perreault also made it clear that he isn’t complaining, not after spending the previous two seasons shuttling back and forth between Washington and Hershey.
“The [coaches] say, ‘It’s nothing you’ve done,’” Perreault said of his infrequent playing time. “‘Just keep working hard and you’ll be back.’ So it’s nothing wrong that I do, it’s just this team is so good, and there are so many good players here, a guy like me has to wait for his turn.
“And when I get the chance," he added, "it’s up to me.”