- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 28, 2009

When Mathieu Perreault found out he was going to join the Washington Capitals, he was told it might be only for two games but - just in case - to pack for a week.

Well, that was more than three weeks ago, and Perreault is still here. The Caps have shuffled young forwards to and from Hershey to combat injuries since, but Perreault has become a fixture with his surprising play.

“He’s played well, and he doesn’t have to go to waivers like Keith Aucoin did,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s a second-year guy who could go up and back, but he’s played well and he’s made that line go. He’s given that element of the ability to score and some tenacious forechecking. He’s earned where he is right now.”

Perreault hasn’t had many problems on the ice, but his circumstances created a problem off it.

“I haven’t brought enough clothes,” he said. “I’ve been playing pretty good and they like I way play, so it is fine. I had to go buy more clothes.”

Perreault had a chance Monday to play in front of some familiar faces that made the drive from Drummondville, Quebec, to Ottawa for Washington’s game at Scotiabank Place. Saturday, though, will be a night to remember.

Drummondville is a little more than 60 miles northeast of Montreal, and Perreault will have a chance to play in the arena of his boyhood heroes when the Caps play the Canadiens at Bell Centre. Perreault has purchased 17 tickets for what likely will be a sellout, but he expects the number of friends and family in attendance to near 40.

“I was always a big fan of the Canadiens, and now I am going to have a chance to play in that [arena]. It is going to be pretty special,” Perreault said. “I liked Saku Koivu a lot back then because he was a small player like me.”

Alexandre Giroux, a fellow Quebec native, was recalled Friday - and he, too, was scrambling to find tickets. This will be the third time Giroux, a Quebec City native, has played in Montreal.

“It is hard to say yes to everybody. You have a lot of friends come out of the woodwork,” Giroux said. “I remember I was in the starting lineup [the first time], and I couldn’t feel my equipment. It was just unbelievable with all the noise and how loud it was there. The first couple shifts, I was trying to skate 100 miles per hour, and I had to calm down. It was really special.

“Last year I went back and was thinking, ‘Well, I’ve been here before now,’ - but it was the same feeling.”

Perreault has two goals and six points in 11 games while playing almost exclusively on the third line. The 21-year-old center has given the Caps some much-needed offensive presence behind Nicklas Backstrom and Brendan Morrison.

He has done this despite his diminutive stature. Listed at 5-foot-10 and 174 pounds, Perreault has endured a lifetime of disrespect because of his size.

“Ever since back to like, peewee, I didn’t make the big team because I was too small,” he said. “It has always been something I’ve had to work with. It was kind of a slap in the face, but now I can say, ‘See, I made it anyway.’ ”

The Caps had another pint-sized prospect in the pipeline before Perreault, but Chris Bourque - despite being similar in skill and feistiness - never was able to earn an extended look for Washington. He’s now with Pittsburgh, which claimed him off waivers before this season.

Bourque carried the pedigree of his father’s last name, but connections to legendary defenseman Ray Bourque may have led him to being drafted too high. He played only 12 games for the Caps in two years, managing one goal and no assists.

Perreault is in line to play his 12th consecutive game for the Caps on Saturday, and he could be on his way to earning a permanent spot in the franchise’s future plans.

“I would definitely think about [Bourque’s situation],” Perreault said. “Last year I didn’t get called up at all even though I thought I had a pretty good season. Some guys got called up who I had more points than. It bothered for a little bit, but now I have my chance and it was just my time to take it. I am pretty happy with what has happened.”

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