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Former Habs and Leafs centre Perreault on fire for Phoenix Coyotes

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The former Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs centre leads the Coyotes with seven goals in 11 games - half the games his new teammates have played. "It's a been a good fit," Perreault said this week from Phoenix. "They gave me good ice time right away. They showed pretty good confidence in me and made me feel good.

"I've tried to do the same thing every year, win faceoffs, create some things offensively and be reliable in my own end."

The 35-year-old native of Sherbrooke, Que., has 10 points overall since signing a US$700,000, one-year deal on Oct. 29 and leads the NHL with a 61 per cent success rate in the faceoff circle - his trademark.

"His reputation for his prowess in the faceoff circle and creating scoring opportunities on the power play preceded him," Coyotes GM Mike Barnett said Tuesday. "He's been all of that and more for us since his arrival here in Phoenix."

And yet, despite decent second-line numbers wherever he's gone - he's essentially a 50-point guy - respect seems to be a fleeting thing for Perreault.

Click on his name on and you'll see him wearing a Canadiens uniform - the team he last played for three years ago.

He's the kind of player that just continues to slip under the radar.

"I'll never be a spectacular player who's going to take the puck from end to end," said Perreault. "I just try to do the little things. When I score a goal I don't jump into the boards, I don't show much emotion I guess.

"I suppose it would help me maybe if I did show a little emotion but I've always been like that."

One can't even find him in Nashville's media guide last season because as a training camp invite he wasn't signed until after the guide was published.

For a bargain-basement $525,000, he went out and had a career-high 57 points (22-35) for the Predators last season while of course leading the NHL with a 62 per cent success rate in the faceoff circle.

"I went to Nashville last year and I did everything I told them I was going to do," said Perreault. "But they wanted to get bigger up front and that's why they signed Jason Arnott and Josef Vasicek."

As the Predators eventually made it clear they weren't going to re-sign him, Perreault drifted into free agency last summer.

But contrary to the widely held perception that nobody wanted him until Phoenix called in October, his phone did indeed ring in July and August but he told teams he wanted to wait until his abdominal issues were settled.

"I wanted to be 100 per cent before I signed somewhere," said Perreault. "I played many months last year in Nashville with the injury and it's no fun. Every time I stepped on the ice it would take me 15-20 minutes just to get warmed up and there was still pain. So my main goal was to get healthy, which is why I signed so late.

"We had offers in the summer time but I told my agent Pat Brisson in August that I might as well wait until I got healthy because I would miss training camp any way."

He was hoping his abdominal issues would just go away in the summer but they didn't so he had surgery to fix the sports hernia in August.

It was the right call.

"I feel so much better now, I'm glad I got the surgery done," he said. "Now I can play pain-free and 100 per cent."

The Chicago Blackhawks were put in a serious offer but he felt the Coyotes were a better fit.

"I played with the Phoenix Roadrunners when they used to be the farm team of the L.A. Kings back in '94," said Perreault. "So I knew the area and knew it wouldn't take long to adjust to the city and the area. I've had a place here all these years so that made it even easier. I've always loved the area.

"It was easier for me and my family (four kids) to come here."

The chance to play for Wayne Gretzky was no small factor as well.

"I was fortunate to play two years with Wayne in L.A.," said Perreault. "I knew him and I'm fortunate now to have him as a coach."

Now if only the Coyotes could win a few more games.

They're currently last in the Pacific Division at 8-15-0.

"It's more fun when you win but I think we've played better the last 10 games (5-5-0) and we've won two of our last three," said Perreault. "Let's hope we can turn this thing around.

"I'm still having fun playing the game and as long as that's the case I'll keep going. And hopefully with Phoenix."

Maybe he'll even make their media guide next year.


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