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Perreault feels he's earned more ice time

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Perreault feels he's earned more ice time

Before negotiating his two-year contract extension with the Capitals, center Mathieu Perreault made it known he wanted more ice time than he received in his first full NHL season.

It was a reasonable request when you consider no Capitals forward who played in 50 or more games averaged less ice time than Perreaults 12:01 a night.

Once he had that assurance, Perreault and his agent went to work on negotiating a two-year, one-way deal worth slightly more than 2 million.

They told me I was part of their elite forwards on the team and they see me on the top lines and they think I can do good things for them, Perreault, 24, said after signing the first one-way contract of his career. Hopefully, with a new coach Adam Oates coming in Ill get more ice time than last year.

Say this for Perreault: He did more with less than any other Capital last season, leading the team in shooting percentage 26.7 while scoring 16 goals in 64 games. Over the course of an 82-game season, that averages out to 21 goals.

Perreault played his way onto the Capitals roster by leading the team in preseason scoring and was used in a variety of ways by both Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter. He filled in for Nicklas Backstrom on the top line and on the power play, chipping in a pair of goals on the man-advantage.

He also won 50.8 percent of his faceoffs. But when the playoffs rolled around, Hunter used him in just four of the Capitals 14 games, leaving Perreault wondering about his future in Washington.

That future became even more clouded when the Caps acquired center Mike Ribeiro at the NHL draft last month. With Backstrom, Ribeiro, Brooks Laich, Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks, the Capitals are overloaded with centers and that could force Perreault to play on the wing, assuming the Caps dont move one of their centers to acquire a right wing like Anaheims Bobby Ryan.

I told them last year if they put me at wing I can do that, Perreault said. I have enough speed to play on the wing. If it means more ice time I would do it.

A sixth-round draft pick of the Capitals in 2006 177th overall, Perreault split the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons between AHL Hershey and the Caps. He said the biggest lesson he learned last year was the importance of being consistent.

My first few years I would play really good a few games and then I wouldnt be as good for 10 or 15 games, Perreault said. Last year I did a good job of being good all year long. When Nicky got his concussion I got a little more ice and I feel I stepped in and did a good job. I felt I could be good every night and every day.

A native of Drummondville, Quebec, Perreault was the only French-speaking player on the Caps last season and he said hes looking forward to playing with Ribeiro, who is from Montreal.

Im excited, he said. Hes a good player and hes going to fit real well in the system in Washington. I wont be the only French guy next year. It will be nice to talk French with him and Im sure Ill have a few things to learn from him.

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Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

Coach Barry Trotz indicated that Andre Burakovsky’s benching wouldn’t last long.

And it didn’t.

The 23-year-old winger will return to the lineup on Monday night as the Caps look to stave off elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.

During the morning skate, Burakovsky skated on the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly—a trio that’s enjoyed some success in the past.

It’s been a difficult postseason for Burakovsky, who has not recorded a point in six games. He missed 10 contests after suffering a hand injury in Game 2 of the first round that required minor surgery.

What he found out upon returning was this: coming back from injury in the regular season is hard...and it’s exponentially tougher in the playoffs.

“It’s definitely tough to jump in in the semifinal,” he said. “When you’re out, you just want to get in and help the team and do what you’re good at—score goals and produce.”

“What I realized is that it’s not that easy,” he added. “I really thought I could jump in and just play like I did before I got injured. 

But obviously it didn’t work out as well I thought it would.”  

Burakovsky also said that he’s planning to work with a sports psychologist this summer in an effort to maintain an even keel when things aren’t going as well as he would like. It’s a problem that he said he’s struggled with since his childhood.

Asked what he hopes to see from Burakovsky in Game 6, Coach Barry Trotz kept it simple: offense.

The Caps have scored just two goals in each of the last three games, with Evgeny Kuznetsov contributing 50-percent of that total.

“He’s a guy that’s given us some good offense all through his time here,” Trotz said of Burakovsky. “We think that he can add some of that.”

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5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

The more you look at Monday's Game 6 between the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the more you realize this game is the most important game of Alex Ovechkin's career.

This is the first time Ovechkin and Co. have made it to the conference finals and it is the first time this postseason in which the Caps face elimination.

Here are the keys for the Caps to staving off elimination and forcing a Game 7:

1. Get off to a better start

It took Tampa Bay just 19 seconds to score in Game 5 and the score was 3-0 nothing before the Capitals really began to show any signs of life. They cannot allow the Lightning to jump all over them in the same way and take the crowd out of the game early.

With the game being in Washington, the Caps will have the crowd on their side. Use it.

The Caps have been at their best this series playing the trap, holding their own blue line and countering against Tampa Bay's aggressive defensemen leading to odd-man breaks. That's a hard gameplan to run if you're playing from behind. Scoring first would go a long way for Washington.

2. Stay out of the penalty box

Washington has given up six power play goals to Tampa Bay on just 15 opportunities in this series. That means the Lightning's power play is producing at a blistering rate of 40-percent. That's an insanely good power play rate and that may be putting it mildly.

So far, the penalty kill has had no answer for how to shut down a Tampa Bay unit that features Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov setting up for one-timers and being quarterbacked by Victor Hedman. That's a formidable cast.

If you can't beat it, then there's only one solution: Stay out of the box.

Despite everything that went wrong in Game 5, the one thing the Caps did right was not give up many penalties. They took only one on the night and even that one was avoidable as Brett Connolly got caught holding Brayden Point trying to get around him to get the puck.

3. Win the top line matchup

The Lightning have found success matching their fourth line against Ovechkin. Of his six points this series, only two of them (one goal, one assist) have come at 5-on-5. That's not good enough.

It's gut check time. The Caps need their best players to be at their best and that means Ovechkin has to win the matchup against Chris Kunitz, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan. In Game 5, Tampa Bay's fourth line actually outscored Ovechkin's line in 5-on-5 play 2-0.

Washington will not win this game if the fourth line outscores Ovechkin's line. It's just that simple.

4. Take advantage of the power play opportunities

The Caps scored at least one power play goal in Game 1 and Game 2, both wins. They have not scored any since and have lost all three games since. They scored on three of seven opportunities in the first two games and zero of seven opportunities in the last three.

Not a coincidence.

Granted, they did not draw any penalties in Game 5, but it seems unlikely the Lightning will stay out of the box for another sixty minutes. At some point, they will take a penalty and when they do, Washington must take advantage.

5. Win the goalie matchup

Not much attention has been paid to Braden Holtby in this series. The Caps are not facing elimination because they have been getting bad goaltending, but when the Lightning needed Andrei Vasilevskiy to steal them a win and up his game to get them back into the series, he responded.

Vasilevskiy has been brilliant the last three games as he has turned aside 100 of the 106 shots he has faced for a .943 save percentage. For the series, Holtby has a save percentage of only .883.

Again, Washington is not down 3-2 in the series because of goaltending. Holtby has faced far fewer shots than Vasilevskiy and has been just about the only thing that has worked against Tampa Bay's lethal power play.

But as one of the team's top players, the Caps need Holtby to step up the way Vasilevskiy has. Game 6 will be about winning by any means necessary. If that means they need a hat trick from Ovechkin so be it. If that means they need Holtby to steal it for them, so be it.

Holtby has to be just as good as Vasilevskiy in Game 6, if not better, for Washington to come out on top.

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