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Seeking more punch, Caps give Perreault another look

by Corey Masisak /
WASHINGTON -- The last time Mathieu Perreault was recalled from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, he collected two assists in his season debut for the Washington Capitals.

Quick starts with the Capitals have not been a problem in Perreault's young career. Maintaining his level of play in order to earn longer stays with the team has been an issue, though. Perreault is back with Washington for the fourth time in the past two years and will be in the lineup Monday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center.

"It is just do what I do -- try to create things on the ice and help my teammates score and make plays and work hard," Perreault said. "That is the main thing -- if I work hard, things will take care of themselves and hopefully I can stick around this time."

The diminutive Perreault was a sixth-round draft pick in 2006 by the Capitals but has had success in the AHL after a potent tenure in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. His NHL career was off to a roaring start last season after collecting six points in his first eight games.

Then he produced just one point in his next 10 games, drew the ire of Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau for some off-ice issues and then was sent back to Hershey for three-and-a-half months. After his two-point night Oct. 23 against Atlanta, Perreault was shut out the next two games, a healthy scratch in the third and was sent back to the minors.

Boudreau pinpointed three characteristics he hopes to see in Perreault this time around.

"One is consistency, two is energy and three is being a good pro," Boudreau said. "We know he's capable of playing. In the past sometimes it has just been a numbers game, but sometimes it has been that he played great one game and less than great the next game and good the next game and then less than great.

"My theory is if you're an NHL player then eight out of 10 games you have to be your absolute best. You can have one game where you're mediocre and one game maybe not so good, but if you're less than that -- if you're five games that you're really good and three that you're mediocre and two [not so good], you have to learn your craft."

Perreault had 50 points in 56 games for the Bears last season despite being behind Keith Aucoin on Hershey's depth chart at center. Aucoin has missed the past month with an injury, so that has allowed Perreault to slide into the No. 1 center spot for the Bears.

He has 25 points this season, but 19 of them have come in the 12 games since Aucoin went out.

"It has been a whole lot different for me. Instead of playing 10-15 minutes, I've been playing 20 or even 25 minutes," Perreault said. "I've been on the first power play, on the PK -- I've been getting a lot of ice time and I've been playing pretty good with Andrew Gordon for most of the time. It has been good."

He will likely center the second line for the Capitals against the Maple Leafs. Tomas Fleischmann began the season there but was ineffective at times and was traded to Colorado for Scott Hannan. Rookie Marcus Johansson and veteran Brooks Laich have both spent some time as the team's No. 2 center as well, but neither has staked a definitive claim to the position.

"We thought we are struggling in that No. 2 hole and have used a lot of different guys," Boudreau said. "This is his opportunity to take it. I don't know how many games he will get, but he's getting at least one."
Washington could use a bit of an offensive boost. The Capitals have been held to one goal in each of the past two games and one goal or less in four of the past nine.

They remain one of the elite scoring teams in the League, but have slipped from their spot atop the rankings in goals per game and are now fourth. Boudreau also called a previously unscheduled practice Sunday for the Capitals to work on the power play (1-for-8 in the two losses) and to make sure his players know they need to find more second-chance opportunities after putting 46 shots on net Saturday against Atlanta, but few that weren't from the perimeter.

"I think it was some things that needed to be addressed from the last game and we worked on them. We have to do that consistently," defenseman Mike Green said. "We shouldn't have to be practicing hard work and battling in the corners. It should be just instinct, but it is what it is and I guess sometimes we need a refresher.

"Sometimes we have those types of games and we just have to find a way. We didn't push like we usually do until it was too late. They did a great job too of playing us defensively and blocking shots. We didn't have much to shoot at. We know how to beat that now, but we just didn't do it last game."
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