Perreault Is Center of AttentionPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Mathieu Perreault's stellar training camp and regular season performance not only earned him his first opening night roster berth, but also the pivot spot on the Caps' second line. Perreault will take to the Verizon Center sheet tonight flanked by Alexander Semin and Troy Brouwer. "We want people to come into our camp,” begins Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “not just this year but for the next 20 years, thinking that there is a chance to make the team if you bust your butt and you're the best player. So [Perreault] deserves to play." Nicklas Backstrom has been entrenched as the team's top center for several seasons, but the Caps have lacked production up the middle beyond Backstrom. Only once in the last decade and a half have the Caps had multiple centers produce as many as 50 points in the same campaign. Based on his strong pre-season, Perreault gets first crack at the gig tonight. He had five multiple-point games last season, but also had three scoring droughts of at least four games in length. The Caps will be seeking consistent production from that slot, and they're not going to be picky about who they get it from. You can also expect Johansson to be heard from in this duel, but he and D.J. King are slated to be the healthy scratches for tonight's opener. “I think Marcus can give more,” says Boudreau. “But I’ve said he’s going to be a huge part of our team. If he plays 81 games, he plays 81 games. It’s a long season. But right now Mathieu is in tonight.” Carolina’s season got off to a slow start with a 5-1 home ice loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. The game was even until the Lightning went ahead 2-1 late in the second on a 5-on-3 power play strike. Tampa Bay tallied three times in the final eight minutes of the third to seal the deal. Carolina goaltender Cam Ward led all NHL netminders with 74 games played last season. But over the summer, the Canes upgraded their netminding when they signed veteran journeyman Brian Boucher as Ward’s backup. Last season, Justin Peters was 3-501 with a 3.98 GAA and an .875 save pct. as Ward’s understudy. Having Boucher available to spell Ward will mean that the Carolina starter’s workload will be eased this season. Look for Boucher to get the start here in Washington tonight. The 34-year-old native of Woonsocket, RI is 8-5-1 with a 2.39 GAA and a .903 save pct lifetime against the Capitals. Lifetime at Verizon Center, Boucher is 3-3 with a pair of shutouts, a 2.05 GAA and a .920 save pct.
Caps center Brooks Laich is a natural pivot who has played more on the wing than in the middle during his last few NHL seasons. He is comfortable at either position, but prefers center. When he has been deployed as a center over the last few seasons, it has generally been in a second line role,