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Perron impresses Hitchcock in his return

by Louie Korac /
ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues Ken Hitchcock has seen a lot of NHL hockey during his 15-year coaching career, but what he saw from a guy that hadn't seen game action in over a year impressed the 59-year-old as much as anything he's seen.

"He's really going to help us. Holy smokes," said Hitchcock about winger David Perron. "He's really a good player. He's going to really help this team.

"About four more like him, we'll be fine."

David Perron
Left Wing - STL
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 1 | +/-: -1
Perron made his return to the NHL Saturday night after a 97-game layoff following a concussion last season. He scored the first goal of the game against the Chicago Blackhawks, but in the end, it was not the happy ending -- or result -- that Perron and the Blues were looking for in a 5-2 loss.

But Perron was on the money with a sharp-angle goal, he was deft with the puck and showed little or no signs of missing more than a year of competition.

"It just came like that, I guess," Perron said. "I did as good a job as I could. I tried to at least get myself ready for this game.

"I felt alright. It was pretty much the same as I thought."

When Hitchcock said leading into Perron's return that he's "not going to be a 20-minute player right off the hop," he was right. Perron wasn't a 20-minute player, but he was pretty close after logging 19:05 of ice time, which was second among forwards only to Alex Steen's 19:18.

"I didn't even look, as long as he had energy he was playing," Hitchcock said after Saturday's game. "At times he was the best player on the ice ... for both teams."

On his goal, Perron was able to take in Patrik Berglund's dump-in towards the net, patiently wait out Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery and for some room to clear before roofing a wrister into the top shelf. The reaction was as if he scored his first NHL goal and it sent most of the 19,150 patrons into delirium.

"It was a good feeling. It's been a while," Perron said. "(The puck) was kind of sitting right there. Dags (teammate Matt D'Agostini) was in front of me. I was kind of waiting for him to get out of the way, but it's a good feeling obviously to score a goal in the NHL and more so when you lose that much time."

"About four more like him, we'll be fine."
-- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock on the energy and ability of David Perron in his first game back

Not only was his coach impressed, but so was a key member of the opposition.

"When you're a skilled player like David Perron and to be away from the game as long as he was, it's an incredibly frustrating thing I can imagine," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "I'm sure a guy like him had a lot of emotional energy coming into the game.

"With his skill, he's going to go out there and make something happen. He scored that big goal for them to start the game but we knew after that he was one of those guys we had to key on to make sure he wasn't going to get too many chances after that."

Hitchcock is just glad he has Perron on his side and will learn to appreciate the special skill-set he has.

"I remember trying to kill him as a coach," said Hitchcock, who coached against the Blues when he was behind the Columbus bench. "I remember he angered us quite a bit, so we targeted him physically ... or tried to anyway. That part I remember."

Perron's stat line reads one goal, one shot on goal and two blocked shots among his 19-plus minutes. His ability to create chances and find open teammates was a good sign for this team going forward.

And for a team that's currently in the bottom third of the league in scoring (22nd at 2.42 goals-per-game), a player with skills and finishing ability is a welcomed addition.

"When he has the puck, how hard he works and the plays that he creates, most guys wouldn't think about creating," teammate T.J. Oshie said. "It's exciting."
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