Mathieu Perreault has been down this road before, having to prove himself to Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter.
Now, in his second year under Adam Oates, he’s back in those same murky waters, not exactly sure how he fits into the Capitals’ plans this season.
“So far, I’m just kind of looking at it from the outside and trying to figure it out,” Perreault said Monday before catching a flight to Boston for the Caps’ fifth preseason game and his second. “Whatever the coaches decide, I can only control what I do on the ice. Things will sort themselves out.”
For the time being, Eric Fehr has taken Perreault’s spot on the Caps’ third line, centering wingers Jason Chimera and Joel Ward. That’s the line Perreault centered in the playoffs last season, when he averaged close to 16 minutes a game.
Oates said he has not spoken to Perreault about his role this season, at least not yet.
“Fehrsie’s the guy I asked to play something different because we have a logjam and tough decisions,” Oates said. “Every guy fights for his life all the time. It’s a tough thing in the league. He’s got to continue to work on his own game.”
Last year, Perreault said his body was a victim of the NHL lockout. He arrived at training camp at 190 pounds, which he admits was “a little overweight” for a 5-foot-10 center.
But as last season progressed, Perreault’s weight decreased and his ice time increased. He finished the season with six goals and 11 assists in 39 games, a dip from the 16 goals and 14 assists he had the previous season under Boudreau and Hunter.
When he met with Oates for their end-of-season evaluation, Oates stressed to him that he wanted to see the player that ended the season and not the one that started it.
“Through the course of the year he lost some weight and it looked like he gained a step out there,” Oates said. “The year before he added 10 pounds and maybe that slowed him down.”
In his first preseason game in Philadelphia last week, Perreault saw nearly 23 minutes of ice time, including nearly 6 minutes on the power play and more than 4 minutes on the penalty kill. He said it’s the most he’s ever played in an NHL game.
“It’s good he has that confidence in me,” Perreault said.
Laich rarin’ to go: Caps left wing Brooks Laich said he felt “great” after Monday’s practice and was eager to play his first game since last April when he left the lineup with a right groin injury. He also tweaked his left hip flexor on the Caps’ first day of training camp.
“I feel 100 percent healthy,” he said, “able to do everything I want to do with no inhibition or fear.”
Laich said he’s anxious to see what kind of chemistry he can create with center Mikhail Grabovski and right wing Troy Brouwer.
“He communicates very well,” Laich said of Grabovski. “He’s kind of a bullet up the middle. He’s not going to cut back and forth. He’s kind of a one-move-and-go-north guy. I really like his game.”
Roster moves: The Caps sent goaltender David Leggio and defenseman Cameron Schilling to the Hershey Bears on Monday, trimming their roster to 34. Following Monday night’s game in Boston the Caps are expected to cut their roster even further as they attempt to get to the 23-man limit.