After years of trying to become more than a callup from Hershey, Mathieu Perreault cracked Washington’s roster out of training camp. And for the first time, barring any unforeseen changes, he’ll be in Washington when the 2011-12 season kicks off Saturday.

“It feels good. I’ve been waiting for it the past three years, and finally I got in,” Perreault said. “I’ve been working really hard. I think I deserved it. I showed up in good shape and ready to go. I got a few points in the games I got in, and that’s what helped me make the team.”

(Charles Dharapak/AP)

Either way, though, Perreault has a chance to finally stick in Washington. He played in 35 games last year but was sent to the Bears in late February and finished his season in the AHL. As has often been the case in Perreault’s career, determining how long of a stay he has with the Capitals will be his ability to find consistency.

“He was probably depressed with the organization at the end of the year, but we told him we hadn’t given up on him or lost faith in him,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “There are just things that he has to do to be solid. And that’s why I’m continually on him in practice, to make him better. It’s not cause I don’t want him to be better, I want him to succeed. Quite frankly he reminds me very much of somebody like me when I played.”

Perreault, who would have needed to clear waivers if he had been assigned to Hershey, said after being sent down at the end of last season, he focused his energy toward finding a way to remain in Washington. He’s working on establishing good habits in his preparation, from getting more sleep to maintaining proper nutrition and so on.

“He’s older, he knows more. Experience is a great teacher,” Boudreau said when asked why he thinks Perreault can grow out of his past mistakes. “You can go through the times that he’s stayed for awhile then the reasons, we’ve always told him why, he’s gotten sent down. So, I mean, he knows what he has to do. Hopefully he’s not like Samson because he is going to get his hair cut.”