After spending the past week rotating in and out of the second-line center spot, Mathieu Perreault knows he’ll be in the opening night lineup when the puck drops on the Capitals’ 2011-12 season Saturday night.
Perreault skated with the Alexander Semin and Troy Brouwer as a part of the second line during the morning skate, while second-year center Marcus Johansson took in extra work and appears slated to be a healthy scratch against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Perreault, who has never had the chance to start in a season opener yet had a strong postseason to crack the lineup out of camp, views it as a reward for his hard work so far.
“It’s huge. I’m very happy, I’ve been working so hard for it this week,” Perreault said. “I didn’t really know what was going to happen I was moving on lines and I was just hoping to be in....If [Coach] Bruce [Boudreau] wants to reward the player that been good, I’m happy that he’s putting me on the ice.”
Said Boudreau: “We want people to come into our camp thinking that, not just this year but for 20 years, there’s a chance to make the team and you bust your butt and are the best player. He deserves to play.”
Perreault knows that one game doesn’t guarantee anything. He’s locked in a daily battle for ice time, whether it be with Johansson or anyone else, to ensure that he spends more time skating than watching from the Verizon Center press box.
“It puts a little bit more pressure on you,” Perreault said. “Like I feel like tonight I’ve got to be really good if im going to be in the next game -- every game is going to be like that. I’ve got to be at my best every game to make it for the next game.
“It push you to go at your 100 percent every game,” he continued. “You can’t slack, you’ve got to be 100 percent every single game for sure. In the one way it probably helps me.”
Boudreau reiterated his statements from earlier in the week Saturday, saying that Johansson “can give more”. After spending most of the preseason skating on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin, Johansson appears to be the odd man out even though Boudreau is in mid-season form and wouldn’t confirm that the 21-year-old Swede would be a healthy scratch.
“He only played six of the first 10 last year,” Boudreau said of Johansson, who suffered a hip flexor injury early last season and missed several games.
“So, I mean, it’s nothing,” Boudreau contineud. “He practiced hard this week, he’s taking warmup tonight--you never know he might still be in.”