Perreault ready for a bigger role

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Loose Pucks,Sports,Brian McNally

Capitals forward Mathieu Perreault doesn’t care if it is at center or wing. He isn’t thinking about the first line or the fourth line. He just wants ice time and says the team has told him more was on the way in 2012-13.

Perreault, a restricted free agent, signed a new two-year, $2.1 million contract with Washington on Thursday. He was frustrated with his role in the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially after filling in for injured center Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) for most of the final three months of the regular season. But Perreault was buried in the press box after playing in the team’s first four postseason games.

“Talking with the organization, my agent [Paul Corbeil], I know they told me I was part of the elite forward of the team,” Perreault said. “They see me on top lines and they think I could do good things for them. So I’m excited for next year. New coach coming in, hopefully I’ll get a little bit more ice time than I did last year. I’ll be coming in in great shape and ready to go.”

To be fair, Perreault’s only had a brief phone conversation with new coach Adam Oates so I wouldn’t pencil him in as the second-line right wing just yet. His value so far in his career has been his ability to jump into the lineup at various positions and fill in capably for a time. Last year he scored 16 goals in 64 games – and, yes, that was with an unsustainable shooting percentage (26.7%). The organization saw enough that it wants to give him a bigger role.  Remains to be seen what exactly that entails.

“You have to get confidence. My first few years I was playing really good for a few games and then I wouldn’t be as good for 10, 15 games,” Perreault said. “I think last year I did a good job of being good all year long and jumping in when the right time was there when Nicky got hurt. I got a little more ice time and I feel like I stepped in and did a good job. This is what I’ve learned. You have to be good every night and every day.”

Perreault says he has met new Caps center Mike Ribeiro, a fellow Quebec native, but doesn’t know him well. He joked that it would be nice to have a fellow French-speaker to converse with at times. Also another go-to player for the French-language media when the Caps visit or host Montreal.

Perreault is hopeful that some of the additional ice time will include a little more power-play time. Last year in 64 games he averaged exactly 1:00 of power-play time per game. In 35 games the year before he actually averaged 1:30.

Whether he’s actually a consistent top-six player next season – he will be there at some point no matter what – Perreault says he’s fine moving to wing, if needed. Primarily used as a center, he obviously won’t play there on either of the top two lines with Backstrom and Ribeiro in place. Perreault contends he has enough speed to play wing and told team officials he was willing to do that.

“The way Washington has been playing they’ve always had three offensive lines. So if I end up on the third line you know you’re going to be playing with guys that can still score and put points up,” Perreault said. “And even on the fourth line. So no matter where I end up in the lineup I know I’m going to be playing with good guys. Obviously, I want to bring some offense. I’m a more offensive guy so hopefully I can do that next year.”

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