MONTREAL | Don’t think Dale Hunter makes coaching decisions for sentimental reasons. When goaltender Tomas Vokoun was back home in South Florida to face his old team in the Florida Panthers, Michal Neuvirth was the choice between the pipes. When Mike Knuble was celebrating his 1,000th NHL game, he was not in the starting lineup.
Mathieu Perreault returns for the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at Bell Centre, a nice treat for a Quebec kid who grew up rooting for the Montreal Canadiens but a move likely made more for team speed than human interest.
“[Coaches] never really talk to me and when I ask, it’s mostly like, ‘It’s nothing you’ve done,’ and ‘Keep working hard and you’ll be back,’ ” Perreault said. “A guy like me has to wait for his turn and when I get the chance it’s just up to me.”
Perreault likely replaces Jay Beagle and figures to center the fourth line between Cody Eakin and Matt Hendricks, though an optional morning skate made combinations unclear.
What’s obvious is that Perreault feels like he has something to prove after sitting out three straight and being scratched for seven of the past 10 games.
“The fact that I haven’t played in a while gives me a little boost to try to get out there and do something so I can stay in for the next game,” the 24-year-old Drummondville, Quebec, native said. “It’s still more pressure because you feel like, I’m back in, so I’ve got to do good to be in the next game. It’s more extra pressure, but there’s always going to be pressure in this game.”
Pressure also manifests itself in Perreault playing essentially a home game in front of friends and family, about 15 of whom are expected to attend, including his mother, father brother, his brother’s wife and child, his sister and his sister’s boyfriend.
But that kind of thing is an off-ice distraction. Within the game, the challenge for Perreault is to develop a rhythm despite a few games out and having not played more than 10 minutes in a game in 2012.
“It’s never easy. I try to stay positive and keep working and try to stay in shape, so every chance I get to go on the ice, I feel good and I can play my game,” Perreault said. “For sure it’s tough position for me right now to be in and out. When I’m in, I only get six, seven minutes. I knew it was going to be like that and I just try to deal with it and do my best with it.”