As if David Perron
wasn’t excited enough to make his Penguins debut tonight, what makes it even more special is that he’ll get to do it against his hometown Canadiens.
“It’s going to be pretty surreal to start as a Penguin against Montreal,” said the 26-year-old Sherbrooke, Quebec native, who was acquired from Edmonton for Rob Klinkhammer and a 2015 first-round pick on Friday afternoon. “And obviously the excitement level going from a team that’s not going to make the playoffs to a team that will certainly make the playoffs and make a run at the Cup is extremely special for me.
“As a player, when once you’ve played a few years in the league, all you start to worry about is winning hockey games, and I’m just trying to come in and do my part and work hard and fit in with the team.”
Head coach Mike Johnston said that while Perron can play on either side of the ice, tonight he will play his preferred left wing alongside Sidney Crosby and Steve Downie.
"We’re going to play him with 'Sid' tonight, so he’ll play on the left side and Downs will play on the right side," Johnston said. "The decision on that is just basically he does play the left wing more, so I wanted to see him on the left side, wanted to see him with Sid and it’s a matter like we did with (Patric) Hornqvist. When Hornqvist came in, he’ll probably play with Sid or 'Geno' (Evgeni Malkin) as we move forward and see which is the best combination."
Growing up, Perron’s favorite player was former Penguin Alex Kovalev. Perron thinks that’s where his preference for the left wing came from.
“I guess that’s the Kovalev in me a little bit,” Perron joked. “I always liked to see him play there and I guess when I went to juniors, they asked me what position I was and I said left wing without even thinking. I didn’t even know if I would play well there or not, but I played there and it went good. But over the last few years I played probably equally right side or left side so whichever coach decides to put me is fine with me.”
Perron, who averaged 2:32 power-play minutes per game with Edmonton this season, will slot in on the Penguins' second unit.
"We’ll get him some power-play time tonight on the second unit. Not with the first group, because I thought the first group last night was back to where they were before, so I liked that and I liked Geno on that point on the backside generating some shots and that’s what we have to do."
With the Oilers in Colorado to play the Avalanche, Perron flew out from Denver after leaning about the trade and arrived in Pittsburgh late last night. And although the optional morning skate was canceled due to bad weather, he skated this morning with a few of the Penguins' injured players and got to see a couple of his new teammates.
“Kris Letang is here this morning and other guys that aren’t going to play or who are injured, so it was nice to get on the ice for about 10-12 minutes and get my legs going,” Perron said.
It's going to be exciting to see what Perron can do alongside Crosby with his combination of skill and grit. Perron is a consistent 20-plus goal scorer – registering a career-best 28 last season with Edmonton – who’s also physical and separates guys from the puck.
So while Perron’s got incredible hands and creativity that allow him to dangle with the puck and put it in the net, but he also plays with an edge and creating room for his linemates – which is huge when you’re on a line with either one of the Pens' franchise centers.
“He’s a good skill guy and good player,” Malkin said. “I saw his game – good hands, righty, good shot. I think he’s a very important player for us.”
“I like to play a smart game, making plays and winning battles,” Perron said. “I focus on winning every single battle, whether it’s along the wall in the D zone and trying to get the puck out or when it’s in the corner in the O zone. I try to be physical, separating guys from the puck. I want to chip in offensively. I'll be looking to do a little bit of everything.”