At 5-foot-10 (maybe on skates) and 185 pounds (maybe, just maybe soaking wet with his pads still on), Mathieu Perreault isn't in the Washington Capitals' lineup to push guys around. More often than not, he's getting pushed around.
But the idea of him playing is to be a spark plug, and he filled that role just about perfectly Thursday night in the 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Playing on the fourth line with Matt Hendricks and Jeff Halpern, Perreault had what coach Bruce Boudreau called perhaps "his best game as a pro."
A confident Perreault agreed.
"Yeah, I felt pretty good. I've been working on it hard every game I've been in and I felt our line was going the past two games, I think we brought a lot of energy," Perreault said. "That's what I want to do is just bring energy every night and if I can get points and get the team going, then I'll be happy."
Perreault scored his first goal of the season Thursday and added an assist and recorded a plus-2 rating. The 23-year-old who at least appeared to be a long shot to make the roster out of camp is now drawing some lofty praise from at least one teammate.
"He's able to hold onto the puck and make those plays and those passes that only a handful of guys in the league are able to do," Halpern said. "I think Perry's a special player and he has certain abilities that are hard to find anywhere, even in the NHL."
Perreault's abilities are much more in the area of speed and vision than defensive-zone coverage. But because he's on the fourth line and counted on to fill a bit of a different role, he has to adjust his game a bit.
That's where that idea of him being a catalyst comes in.
"Halpy and Hendy's been talking a lot to me. I can be a fourth-liner bringing energy," Perreault said. "And if I can do that for this team, then I'll be happy with that — just bring energy and working hard every night."
But Perreault's presence coupled with Hendricks and Halpern possessing goal-scoring ability — changes a bit of what the Caps have as a fourth line. In previous seasons, it has been a grinding group with guys like Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon.
"I don't want to take anything away from the fourth lines we've had in the past. It's a different dynamic, for sure," Boudreau said. "What you lose in one area, you gain in another. Right now, they're providing a big spark when we need it."
Perreault is on the fourth line now because of Jay Beagle's suspected concussion. And while Beagle is known for his work ethic and gritty style, Perreault brings something a little different. That, in turn, changes things up for his linemates.
"I think for me and Hendy it's important to get on pucks and make sure we can get it to him and get open and try to complement him as much as we can," Halpern said.
Halpern made it clear that being on the fourth line often means playing it safe and making sure he, Hendricks and Perreault don't turn the puck over. Playing in the offensive zone and wearing down opponents is a big part of that role.
But Hendricks really likes to score — he had nine goals last year. Halpern was once a 20-goal scorer in this league. And Perreault is no stranger to the red light, either.
"Even though we're a fourth line and we're working hard we still have skills and guys can score," he said. "These guys have been scoring in their career and I've been known as more a point guy than a defensive guy. So if we can do both and be energetic and play good in our 'D' zone and get a few goals, it'll be just great for this team."
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