Proving he deserves a regular spot in the lineup and consistent ice time is nothing new for Mathieu Perreault. He’s bounced in and out of the mix depending on everything from his output to the health of his teammates, and he knows that if he wants to establish himself under Coach Adam Oates he’ll need to bring consistency in his play, regardless of the points he puts up on the scoresheet.
“I don’t want to think too much about, ‘Oh, I got a goal and an assist’ because next game if I don’t play as good then maybe other game I’ll be in the stands,” Perreault said. “I just want to come out and play hard like I did. No matter if I get a goal or not, I just want to get chances and get on the offense.”
After playing less than five minutes in Washington’s first two games of the year, Perreault complained about his ice time. He wanted an opportunity to show what he could do, but as his ice time increased he took unnecessary penalties and then took a seat in the press box as a healthy scratch for five straight games.
A day before he put Perreault back in the lineup, Oates was asked what he wanted to see from the 25-year-old and the answer was simple: play the right way.
“It’s not about production; it’s about playing correctly,” Oates said last Friday.
Perreault recorded a goal and an assist in Washington’s 5-0 win over the Panthers Saturday night, but he was more proud of the way he and his linemates – Eric Fehr and Joel Ward – were able to tilt the ice in the Capitals’ favor on every shift. They worked as a cohesive unit, supporting each other to establish an effective cycle.
Perreault worked along the boards just as his more physically imposing linemates did. He hustled, chased down a rebound for a goal, and kept both of his wingers involved in the play. It’s precisely what Oates wanted to see.
“You know, when you first look at him, people said to me, ‘He’s a fancy player.’ And while he does have good skill, the two goals they got came off cycles, from work,” Oates said Monday. “Their line looked like every shift that’s what they’re doing. The pretty plays in the game of hockey are so rare now, you’ve got to be willing to work and play 200 feet. That’s what he did and that’s what their line did and that’s what I liked.”
With Marcus Johansson out with an upper-body injury and not in Florida with the team, Perreault’s place in the lineup is safe for now. He wants to show that he deserves the spot on the bench, not the press box, regardless of who else is available.
“It’s another chance for me,” Perreault said. “Last year same thing happened, [Nicklas Backstrom] had a concussion and I think I’ve been showing [that] if guys get hurt I’m always there to jump in and I’m always ready to go out there and help the team.”