Record: 52 – 20 – 10
CHICAGO — Mathieu Perreault prides himself on being a plug-and-play NHLer.
When he’s at his healthiest, that is.
Fortunately for the Winnipeg Jets, the hard-working winger has been able-bodied for the better part of two months now and he’s been a major contributor as the team enjoys a lofty perch not just in the Central Division (first with a 26-11-7 record) but league wide (third overall).
The 30-year-old from Drummondville, Que., has played in 27 consecutive games since returning from a lower-body injury sustained at home Oct. 14 against the Carolina Hurricanes. During that stretch, he’s scored 11 goals and added 11 assists, initially playing on the club’s fourth line but currently on the second forward unit with centre Bryan Little and winger Nikolaj Ehlers.
It’s hard to blame the 5-10, 188-pound nine-year veteran for reaching down to rap his knuckles against the hard wooden bench inside the dressing room following Thursday’s practice — anything to keep the streak of health and well-being going for a guy who’s been sidelined for 60 games over the past four seasons in Winnipeg.
"That’s a big key, staying healthy. The way I play, injuries are going to happen because I try to play such a hard game. Knock on wood, when I’m healthy I can produce and help the team win," said Perreault.
"When I’m feeling good my game doesn’t change, no matter who I’m playing with. I work hard, I try to be physical, I try to make plays when they’re there. Right now, our line is clicking. Just winning is a big key, it’s been fun. Whether it’s top-six and we’re winning or fourth line and we’re winning, I’m happy."
Returning from injury Nov. 16, Perreault — who signed a four-year, US$16.5-million contract extension in the summer of 2016 — had an immediate impact in a fourth-line role with centre Matt Hendricks and winger Joel Armia, scoring in three straight games and picking up six points in four games.
He spotted in on the top-six and received power-play time, but the injury to No. 1 centre Mark Scheifele just after Christmas forced a more permanent promotion.
"That’s what makes a great team, guys moving around and doing well," he said. "In Anaheim and Washington, I had the same kind of role where if someone got hurt or wasn’t going good, I would move up. It’s a role I’m very comfortable with."
In 458 NHL games, Perreault has 103 goals and 162 assists split between the Capitals, Ducks and Jets.
Before coming to Winnipeg, Perreault had a number of winning campaigns with those squads, and he’s enjoying the feeling of contributing to a dominant club once again.
"It honestly kind of reminds me of the years in Washington where every time we stepped on the ice, we kind of had that feeling, that confidence, that we were just better than the other team," said Perreault. "That hasn’t been here since I’ve been here and it’s a good feeling to have. It comes with confidence."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice said he has no trouble slotting in Perreault in a variety of situations.
"That’s his strength — his determination, his forecheck and has a great stick. He gets in and creates loose pucks and then he makes those plays that other players like... when you play with Matty, you’re going to get (the puck) on your tape and you’re going to get some scoring chances."
Maurice said the way Perreault behaves should be the gold standard for all players breaking into the NHL.
"On the fourth line he never complained, played hard on the minutes that he got and was productive. From a coach’s point of view, he’s a great example man for me. Anybody who’s not happy with their ice time, I’ve got a veteran guy who does it willingly. He’s provided a great example for our young players."
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).