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Perreault, Eakin take another shot at cracking Caps

by Corey Masisak
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Mathieu Perreault and Cody Eakin were two of the last guys cut at the end of training camp for the Washington Capitals last season.

Perreault would be back on multiple occasions with inconsistent results, while Eakin went back to juniors and was one of the best players at that level of hockey. Both of those players are among a group vying for one open spot -- likely centering the third line -- with the Capitals this season.

"You are always looking to see where you might be able to fit, but you can't really control what other guys are going to do," Perreault said. "I can only control what I'm going to do, and hopefully that will be good enough to stay here."


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Barring a big surprise, Washington is set on the wings. There are three guys who will slot into the middle of the lineup -- Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson and Jeff Halpern.

There are enough versatile players available that coach Bruce Boudreau has several options for that final spot to make the all the pieces fit.

One option is to fit Brooks Laich and Johansson alongside Alexander Semin on the second line, which would leave a group of Eakin, Perreault, Mattias Sjogren, Christian Hanson and maybe Ryan Potulny to battle for a place next to Joel Ward and either Mike Knuble or Troy Brouwer on the third line.

Another version of Boudreau's lineup could include Laich and Johansson at center, which could put Brouwer on the left side of the second line, push Jason Chimera up to the third line and open a place on the fourth line for Jay Beagle, Sjogren, Hanson or Potulny. In this scenario, both Perreault and Eakin would likely be sent to Hershey of the American Hockey League for more playing time. D.J. King will factor in some nights on the fourth line, but he's likely to start the year as an extra forward.

It is a lot of players for Boudreau and his coaching staff to evaluate and consider.

"I've got to believe there is three of them [set]," Boudreau said about his centers. "Now it is just a question of the moving parts. Is it going to be Brooks? Is it going to be Perreault? Is it going to Hanson? It is Eakin, Sjogren? There's a lot of guys showcasing for that opportunity, and we'll see how it goes."

Perreault lost a battle with Johansson to be the team's third center last training camp, but eventually injuries and the trade of Tomas Fleischmann provided him with several opportunities with the Capitals. Each of those trips to Washington were the same -- Perreault shined in his first game back with the big club before sputtering for a while and earning a trip back up I-95 and I-81 to Hershey.

He finished the season with 7 goals and 14 points in 35 games, but six of those points came in his three "debuts" after being recalled from Hershey.

"I just have to stay loose and be consistent and play good every night," Perreault said. "This is what I've been trying to do for the past two years. I knew last year this is what they wanted me to do and I tried to do, but it didn't work as well as I wanted it to. I'm getting more mature every year and I'm feeling pretty good about myself."

Eakin was one of the surprise stars of training camp a season ago. His strong play forced the Capitals to keep him around long after the other junior-eligible players were sent north.

He was one of the last cuts, and he went on to have an incredible season. Eakin dominated at the Canadian junior level with 47 goals and 110 points in 75 games. A year after just missing out on a spot with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship, he not only made the team in December but was a key component of the silver medal-winning team.

Eakin's season also included a blockbuster trade shortly after the WJC and he helped his new club to a Western Hockey League title and within one victory of the Memorial Cup.

"It's been long, but it has been really exciting," Eakin said. "I'm really happy to have experienced all the things that I did this past year. It was a pretty memorable year and one I will cherish for sure."

Eakin is young enough and slight enough that more seasoning in the AHL won't hurt him, and the contract situation of other players (Perreault specifically would have to clear waivers) could work against him, but he has become a favorite of many in the organization because of his speed, feistiness and lightning-quick release on his shot.

"I think you have to come into camp with a little swagger and that can carry you a long way," Eakin said. "It's not necessarily a cockiness, but just know that it is there to be picked and I could be the guy who they choose to do it. I've come into camp with one goal in mind and now I've got to go do it."
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