Bruce Boudreau wants training camp and the preseason to mean something for his Washington Capitals.
“We want people to come into our camp thinking that, not just for this year but for the next 20 years, thinking there’s a chance to make the team if you bust your butt and you’re the best player,” Boudreau said.
According to the coach that means Mathieu Perreault “deserves to play.” The 23-year-old will be in the Caps’ lineup Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, centering the second line, while Marcus Johansson will be a healthy scratch.
Boudreau again called Perreault “the best player in camp,” and talked about this night being a reward for that. But at the same time, it seems like a repudiation of Johansson’s preseason.
“I think Marcus can give more. And, Marcus – I’ve said this – is going to be a huge part of our team,” Boudreau said. “If he plays 81 games, he plays 81 games. It’s a long season. Right now Mathieu’s in tonight.”
Boudreau added that Johansson “practiced hard this week and he’s taking warmup tonight. You never know – he still might be in.” But the 21-year-old took the scratches skate with D.J. King and John Erskine, and Perreault confirmed he was in at Johansson’s expense.
“Marcus, he’s been pretty good, too,” Perreault said. “It’s hard. I think Marcus should be in the lineup, too. Nobody here deserves to not be playing.”
Johansson left the locker room before reporters were able to speak with him, though he said repeatedly this week that Boudreau was trying to shake things up with his lines.
For Perreault, this is indeed an accomplishment, as he went into camp to wage a battle for the final roster spot and is now expected to skate between Troy Brouwer and Alexander Semin against Carolina. His girlfriend, who lives in Montreal, is in town this weekend to see him play.
“It’s huge. I’m very happy. I’ve been working so hard for it and this week I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” Perreault said. “I was moving on lines and I was just hoping to be in. This morning I’m just very happy to see that I’m playing.”
Consistency is something Perreault knows he needs more of in his game – and perhaps better defensive play to go with obvious offensive talent. But complacency is not something he said he can afford Saturday night – not with Johansson waiting to crack the lineup.
“It puts a little bit more pressure on you,” he said. “I feel like tonight I’ve got to be really good if I’m going to be in the next game. Every game will be like that; I’ve got to be at my best every game just to make it for the next game. For sure it puts a little bit more pressure on us, but this is what the game’s all about and you’re always going to have pressure. I don’t mind the pressure on me.”