Mathieu Perreault is seizing the clean slate the Stanley Cup playoffs present.
The Winnipeg Jets forward has been stuck in a rut for weeks, unable to manufacture offence playing alongside centre Bryan Little and Joel Armia.
Perreault scored last Monday in Ottawa in the Jets' 6-5 triumph over the Senators, snapping a 19-game scoring drought. But the lone goal against goalie Craig Anderson and one assist March 25 at home against the Nashville Predators are the only points he's mustered during the final 23 games of the 2017-18 regular season.
The 30-year-old Drummondville, Que., product, a key offensive contributor upon his return from injury in mid-November right to mid-February, still finished with 17 goals and 22 helpers.
Gripping his stick a little too tightly, Perreault wasn't quite as effective on the forecheck and failed to spark the Jets' second power-play unit.
The NHL post-season, which begins Wednesday in earnest, provides the opportunity to start fresh, he said.
"It's a new season now. Every personal stat goes right out the window," Perreault said following Monday's morning practice. "It's all about us winning games and it's going to be like that for everybody in the room and this is the only way we can be successful.
"It's nothing about me, nothing personal, it's all about winning games."
Perreault is one of five Jets — along with defenceman Dustin Byfuglien and forwards Blake Wheeler, Paul Stastny and injured centre Matt Hendricks — with more than 20 NHL playoff games under their belt.
Perreault played 11 post-season games with the Washington Capitals, 11 with the Anaheim Ducks and dressed for three of four games with Winnipeg in 2015 when the club was swept by the Anaheim Ducks.
He was also a member of the Hershey Bears, who won back-to-back American Hockey League titles in 2009 and '10, and is fired up about facing the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 Wednesday.
"This is what I play for, what we play, it's the playoffs. It's the best time of the year, so we're very excited," Perreault said. "The meaning of the games, it feels like there's so much more on the line. Growing up playing hockey, this is what you play for, those big games where it means everything."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice echoed those sentiments.
"I’m looking forward to it. This, for me, the playoffs, is your Christmas. It’s exciting every day when you get to the rink," said the 20-year NHL bench boss. "You’re not worried about making long-term points with guys, grinding guys. They’ll bring lots of enthusiasm and energy, so you’re just trying to point and focus it in the right direction. This is our fun time of year."
A TALE OF TWO GOALIES: the Wild-Jets series will bring two goaltending friends together on ice.
Winnipeg's Connor Hellebuyck and Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk spent a good portion of their off-season working out and honing their craft in Kelowna, B.C., at the Net360 goaltending camp. Both have become elite goaltenders and credit a large part of their success to their work in Kelowna. Dubnyk had his breakthrough year four seasons ago while Hellebuyck has become one the league's finest young puckstoppers in 2017-18.
"He went through this entire process and I was there to learn from him a little bit," said Hellebuyck of Dubnyk. "You can learn from yourself or you can speed that process up and learn from someone else that's been through it. Just the fact that he was willing to be open to me working out with him and skate with him was a pretty good feeling that I had."
The two participate in a group chat but that friendship will be on hold during the series.
"All the Net 360 goalies kinda text every once in a while but once it gets into the grind of things, we kinda go our own separate ways," said Hellebuyck.
Hellebuyck is in the midst of a career year in which he established an NHL record for wins by an American-born goaltender (44). He also had six shutouts, a 2.36 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage.
Has he taken any time to enjoy the accomplishment?
"I took a moment to enjoy it, yes," said Hellebuyck. "It's a good milestone in my life but you know what, it means nothing without the Stanley Cup. Everyone knows that. The reason you play hockey and the reason you grow up playing hockey is the belief you want to win a Stanley Cup. Now we have a chance and it's gonna be something special."
HOW DO THEY RATE?: Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau was behind the bench of the opposing team when the Jets last reached the post-season. In the spring of 2015, Boudreau's Ducks bounced Winnipeg in straight games.
Boudreau believes that Jets team doesn't compare to the current squad.
"They have about six guys on the team, but at the same time, they were much younger," Boudreau told reporters in St. Paul, MInn. "I just went over, quite frankly, the roster of that team versus this team and they’re nowhere near as good. Other than that, they now have four games of playoff experience. Winnipeg this year is much deeper, much faster, much better."
HELP ON THE WAY?: Minnesota will be without all-star defenceman Ryan Suter (fractured right ankle) but may have veteran Jared Spurgeon back after the veteran blue-liner missed a month of action with a partially torn hamstring.
Spurgeon practised Monday with rookie Carson Soucy and was to consult with the club's doctors later in the day.
"He looked fine," said Boudreau. "He hasn’t been cleared to play but again, it wasn’t excruciatingly painful the practice itself. We’ll see. We wanted to make some contact to see how he felt, but I haven’t heard yet."
Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba have formed the Wild's top pairing since Suter was sidelined.
HE'S SEEN THIS BEFORE: Andrew Copp played one regular-season game for the Jets in 2014-15 and then watched his new club get swept by the Ducks. He did soak up some of the playoff fever of that season and he's currently a member of Winnipeg's stellar fourth line.
"I guess it was a playoff atmosphere pretty much from the time I got here," said Copp. "Just with that push at the end was important for us to make the playoffs. That Game 81, so I kinda felt that intensity right from the get-go. Mental mistakes can be costly, I guess. So one little mistake... and it can be in the back of your net."
Read more by Jason Bell and Mike Sawatzky.