- Being a healthy scratch is always a tough scenario for an NHL player, especially when it doesn't occur all too often.
Such was the case for Rich Peverley on Thursday night against Ottawa, as he had a seat up in the press box at Scotiabank Place, while the B's battled through to edge the Senators, 2-1, off goals from Daniel Paille and Dennis Seidenberg.
"Obviously, you never want to be a healthy scratch, but it's coach's decision and I know I have to be a lot better," said Peverley, following Friday's practice at Carleton University in Ottawa, before the team traveled on to Toronto. "Hopefully, from here on, it will be a lot better motivation."
"Absolutely," added Peverley, when asked by media if he could take anything away from watching the game from up top. "It's not the first time, I've been a healthy scratch a few times in my career. You go through it and you try to take the positives out of it."
"Hopefully, I can turn things around here."
The versatile forward, who started the season playing the wing on the third line and easily slotted in as center after Chris Kelly's injury, has been a mainstay on the B's strong penalty kill throughout the season and has been strong on the faceoff dot, but he and his linemates haven't seen the offensive production that they'd like.
In the 28 games to start this year's shortened season, the forward has 4-5=9 totals. The 2011-12 season saw Peverley finish with 11 goals, 31 assists and a plus-20 rating through 57 games for the B's. He also led the Black & Gold with five points (3-2) in last season's first-round playoff series against the Capitals.
For a player who has worked tirelessly his entire career to give his best effort, Peverley isn't shying away from the fact that he says he needs to get better in certain areas moving forward.
"I know I have to be a lot better five-on-five," he said, before adding about his line, "I think we've been good defensively. The third line hasn't been scoring many goals this year. That definitely needs to be better."
"Need to shoot the puck more, take the puck up more, maybe need a little more jam in front of the net. It's definitely been a trying season for our line."
The consistency on the offensive side of the puck may not be there this season for the third line, but the personnel has seen some changes as well. Chris Bourque played the first 18 games of the season on the left wing spot, before he was assigned to Providence and Jay Pandolfo assumed the role briefly before Jordan Caron was called up.
Shortly thereafter, the injury to Chris Kelly pushed Peverley from the wing to center position, something not all that foreign for the natural center. But still, the offensive numbers haven't been able to climb their way up.
"You definitely think about it a lot," said Peverley, on the frustration of not playing his best and being a healthy scratch. "You wouldn't be a hockey player if you weren't frustrated by it."
"Like I said, you've got to take the positives out of it and that's what I'm trying to do right now."
Placing Peverley as a healthy scratch may have been frustrating for the hard-working forward, but Coach Julien opted to use it as an opportunity to try and spark his player and help him find his game.
"I think it's obvious to everybody that Rich is struggling a little bit and sometimes you've got to make those kind of decisions, hoping that it gives him the jolt that he needs to get himself going," Coach Julien told media following the B's win over the Sens, on the decision to scratch the forward.
"We need Rich Peverley," said Coach. "He's a good player. But he hasn't been able to find his game so far this year, to what he can be."
"As a coach you make those kind of decisions, hoping at the end that it's the right on to help the player and to help the team."
As Coach hopes to see a spark from Peverley, he's also looking to other members of the Black & Gold to find consistency in their game.
"We talk about Pevs - Nathan and Looch were guys that were scoring quite a bit at the beginning and now they've been a little cool," said Coach Julien, on the dipped production from his power forwards as well.
"There's no doubt that it's a normal thing to feel that kind of pressure. But as I said to you guys earlier, I want to see those guys work their way out of it."
"I don't expect results right away, but I don't want them to just kind of throw their arms up in the air and say, 'I just can't do it.' That's the thing that, as a coach, you won't accept."
"I want to see them work through it, and that's basically what we asked them to do yesterday."
Spooner Gets Another Look
Coach was able to utilize his option of placing Peverley as a healthy scratch, due to the fact that the 21-year-old Ryan Spooner, who had been recalled on an emergency basis when David Krejci was termed day-to-day on Monday, had shown a strong effort in his second NHL game Tuesday night when he filled in for Krejci at center.
"We're not doing anybody favors here," Coach told media, when asked if Spooner getting in the lineup had anything to do with the B's playing in his hometown of Ottawa.
"I really felt that he played well enough that he deserved another look."
Merlot Logs Ice Time
With Peverley not in the lineup Thursday, his usual line had Spooner centering Pandolfo and Caron, and thus, Coach decided to utilize the experience of Gregory Campbell's Merlot Line as his third line throughout the course of the game.
"Well, I wanted to see – you put Caron, who doesn't have a full year of experience in the league, he's had bits and parts here and there, Spooner's young, and then Pando. That was a bit of an experiment, I didn't quite know what I was going to get," said Coach Julien.
"The Campbell line has been playing extremely well, so to me, last night, in my mind, the Campbell line was part of the top three lines of our team. That's what they ended up getting, that kind of ice time."
Campbell had logged 15:33 in ice time, while Paille saw 14:31 time on the ice and Thornton logged the most minutes he's seen in a game all season with 13:37 (the winger's second highest total of 12:23 came against Washington, when Coach Julien rolled all four lines consistently as his club held a 3-1 lead through most of the third).