Perreault finding his niche with Ducks

Tuesday, 11.26.2013 / 3:00 AM
Curtis Zupke  - NHL.com Correspondent

ANAHEIM – Mathieu Perreault couldn't even find escape on a golf course.

Late September is usually a safe time for veteran NHL players. Rosters are all but set, meaning trades are unlikely. But Perreault had a feeling he was about to get squeezed out of the Washington Capitals' plans, and the news all but interrupted his backswing.

"[Washington general manager] George McPhee gave me the call," Perreault said. "I was golfing with a bunch of the guys there. It was funny. We literally talked about it five minutes before the call came. I told the guys I thought I was going to get traded. Five minutes later …."

Did Perreault finish the round?

"[We were] three holes up," he said. "I finished it. But it was terrible. I was all over the place. I couldn't get my mind right."

It didn't take long for Perreault to find peace of mind on the other coast. He was sent to the Anaheim Ducks on Sept. 29 and has since become one of the steals of the early season.

Acquired for John Mitchell and a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Perreault had five goals and nine assists in his first 16 games with the Ducks. He shook out of a slump Saturday with an assist and has 15 points in 24 games, two points shy of his total in 39 games last season.

"I didn't know much about him at all," Ducks forward Teemu Selanne said. "He has been a nice surprise for us. You never know who's going to be available. When the GM is pulling the moves, sometimes you don't even know the guy."

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau certainly knew Perreault as one of the pieces from the high-scoring Capitals outfits during Boudreau's tenure as Washington coach from 2007 to 2012, and also with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. It's hardly surprising that Perreault seamlessly fit in under Boudreau's system at second- and third-line center. He scored his first goal as a Duck in overtime on Oct. 5 and gives Anaheim even more depth in the middle with Ryan Getzlaf, Saku Koivu and Nick Bonino.

Since Boudreau arrived in Anaheim, the Ducks have acquired former Capitals players Andrew Gordon and David Steckel. But Boudreau said his influence on Anaheim GM Bob Murray's decision to get Perreault went so far as to offer his opinion.

Washington reportedly needed to shed some salary to make room for younger players, although Perreault's expiring $1.1 million contract wouldn't seem to represent a heavy cap hit.

"I was really surprised," Boudreau said. "I didn't hear the name being mentioned. But I follow Washington still, and in the preseason Eric Fehr was getting third-line center, so I didn't know what they were going to do. Not that any of it was my call, anyway, but obviously Bob saw the same thing. He inquired.

"They asked me what he was like. I thought I gave them a pretty straightforward answer of what he is, and they thought that was going to make an upgrade on our team, so they made the deal."

Perreault paints a bolder picture of Boudreau's role in bringing him to Anaheim and said, "he's probably the main reason this trade happened."

"He gave me a call and told me that he pushed hard for me to come here," Perreault said. "He liked me as a player. He felt it was good to get another chance somewhere else. He was really excited for me."

Perreault helps make the Ducks one of the higher-scoring and more entertaining teams to watch in the League. Boudreau rolls four lines; a typical Ducks game will see no line with fewer than 15-17 shifts or more than about 25.

With Anaheim off to a great start, there is talk of it being a Stanley Cup contender. The backstory is whether another one of Boudreau's great regular-season teams can translate that to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Perreault sees similarities.

"A lot of depth, just like we had in Washington," he said. "In Washington, I was the fourth-line center. That shows the kind of depth we had there. We had four lines that could score. It's kind of the same here. Bruce is really good at getting the best out of his players. You see he had a lot of success in Washington, and he's got a lot of success here."

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