WASHINGTON -- During parts of four seasons with the Washington Capitals, center Mathieu Perreault served as a spark plug capable of stepping into the lineup and providing instant energy.
Yet Perreault, minus a 64-game, 16-goal season in 2011-12, never could carve a consistent spot in the Capitals' lineup, resuming his position as the first option off the bench in case of injury or when the roster needed a shakeup.
As Washington's training camp wound down this season, Perreault seemingly was on the outside looking in once again as coach Adam Oates elected to experiment at the third-line center position that Perreault presumably would have assumed.
"I felt like even when I had those chances I was able to play well, but when guys were coming back from injuries it also seemed like [the Capitals] would put me aside again and I'd have to wait for someone to get hurt to have a chance," Perreault, traded to the Anaheim Ducks in late September, said following the Ducks' morning skate Monday. "And then I would actually do good, and then when guys would be back I would get put on the sideline again."
As he returns to Verizon Center for the first time since leaving Washington as the Ducks face the Capitals on Monday, Perreault is grateful the Capitals not only gave him a chance to break into the League but also allowed him to earn a more expanded role elsewhere.
"It's part of the business, but I think that the Caps knew this year that if they weren't going to have the chance to play me more that it was about time to let me go," Perreault said. "I'm 25 years old now. I want to play. When you're a younger guy you can live with being on the sideline. But as you get older you want to be on the ice. I think it was actually nice that the Caps made that move and let me go and give me a chance to play."
In Anaheim Perreault, who has seven goals and 19 points in 32 games, has become a top-six fixture, earning a career-high 14:10 of ice time per game, including 1:55 per game on the power play. It is a position Perreault feels most comfortable in and one coach Bruce Boudreau, familiar with Perreault from their time with the Capitals, knew Perreault could handle.
"He's the same type of player as always, just probably a little more mature, a little older, a little more experienced when it comes down to it," Boudreau said. "He still goes through his bouts of inconsistency, but right now over the last few games he's been very good and we hope that continues."
Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Ducks:
Kyle Palmieri - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Patrick Maroon - Mathieu Perreault - Jakob Silfverberg
Daniel Winnik - Saku Koivu - Andrew Cogliano
Dustin Penner - Nick Bonino - Teemu Selanne
Cam Fowler - Ben Lovejoy
Bryan Allen - Francois Beauchemin
Mark Fistric - Hampus Lindholm
Scratched: Tim Jackman, Matt Beleskey, Sami Vatanen
Injured: Luca Sbisa (right hand), Sheldon Souray (wrist), Viktor Fasth (lower-body muscle inflammation)
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin
Eric Fehr - Mikhail Grabovski - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Martin Erat - Joel Ward
Brooks Laich - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Mike Green
John Erskine - Steve Oleksy
Scratched: Aaron Volpatti, Alexander Urbom, Michal Neuvirth
Injured: Michael Latta (lower body), Jack Hillen (fractured tibial plateau)
Notes: Laich will return to the lineup after missing 11 games with a groin injury.