Perreault finds new life in Nashville

Updated: January 16, 2006, 2:21 PM ET
ESPN.com

OPENING FACEOFF
Yanic Perreault
When Yanic Perreault walked into the Nashville Predators' training camp on a tryout basis in September, his chances weren't particularly good.

The 34-year-old hadn't played during the lockout and during his last season in Montreal the veteran center had been marginalized, relegated to fourth-line and face-off duties.

Plus, to be frank, foot speed has never been at the top of Perreault's résumé, and with speed at a premium in the new NHL, it wouldn't have been a big surprise to count Perreault among those players eclipsed by the new game.

But in the same week that saw Tampa Bay captain Dave Andreychuk pushed off the good ship Lightning, there was the unsinkable Perreault, notching his 16th and 17th goals in a shootout loss to Atlanta.

"It's been great, actually," Perreault told ESPN.com. "They gave me an honest chance to show what I could do."

All the affable Perreault has done is emerge as a crucial power-play specialist who is second on the Predators in goals and third in scoring with 33 points.

He also leads the league in faceoffs with a 62.2 winning percentage (202 of 333 draws). In the new NHL one of the key catalysts to success is puck possession. How do you get the puck? Well, if you win 60 percent of the faceoffs, that's a good start.

"He's been very consistent throughout the year," said talented winger Steve Sullivan, with whom Perreault has played most of the year. "He's such a quiet individual and he's quiet on the ice, too."

At camp, Perreault was pitted against another veteran center, Randy Robitaille, for the job as the team's second-line center.

"Yanic came out of the blue," head coach Barry Trotz said of Perreault's arrival hours before the start of camp. "He started slowly, now he's been playing really solid."

On a team that has battled through a myriad of injuries, Perreault's contributions have been significant as the Predators remain in the hunt for the Central Division crown and home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

Was the father of four children between the ages of 8 months and 7 years worried?

"Absolutely. Especially with the lockout and not playing for a year, you're not sure how things are going to turn out," Perreault said. "Every year now, you've got to show what you can do and prove you can play in this league."

-- Scott Burnside



CAUGHT IN THE NETS
FEELING THE WEIGHT
With Sunday's 4-2 loss to Carolina, the St. Louis Blues have dropped six in a row and are 5-15 in their last 20 games. They are the worst team in the Western Conference and it's a toss-up between the Blues and Penguins as to which team is the most wretched league-wide.

Which brings us to Doug Weight. It seems like only yesterday that Weight arrived in St. Louis from Edmonton, part of a spending orgy that was supposed to bring a Cup to St. Louis. Instead, it has brought the team to the edge of ruin.

Now, as the Blues try to find a new owner, the forward is once again at the center of attention, this time as an important asset the Blues are expected to peddle in order to help forge a future out of the current rubble. Weight, who will turn 36 next week, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and the gifted playmaker will garner a significant amount of attention between now and the March 9 trade deadline, especially given the desire of teams such as Nashville, Ottawa and Calgary to strengthen themselves down the middle.

All of which has left Weight in a most uncomfortable situation. The Blues' woes have made this season one of the most difficult of Weight's 15-year career. Although he has a no-trade clause in his contract, Weight is loath to be seen as lobbying to get out of Dodge. "Loyalty is a big part of what I learned first in New York [with the Rangers] and then in Edmonton," Weight said.

By the same token he can hardly ignore the buzz that surrounds him now wherever he goes. He has heard all the possibilities, all the rumors. And the prospect of winning a Stanley Cup, or at least competing for one, remains an undeniable lure.

"I'd be crazy not to have it on my mind once in awhile. But I don't want it to be a sideshow at all," Weight said. "It's difficult but it's part of the game. It's great that teams are interested. I still feel I have a lot to offer."

And then there's the notion that the Blues might actually want to keep their leading point-getter. Assuming new ownership is found before next season, the Blues will be in a position to re-tool completely with scads of cap room provided ownership gives them leave to spend it. Why not build around Weight and fellow U.S. Olympian Keith Tkachuk? Stranger things have happened.

"We're going to have a remarkable amount of money [under the cap] to spend. Whether it's me anymore or not," Weight said. "Frankly, it could be something that lures other players here."

Regardless, the time will pass quickly between now and March 9. Although Weight hasn't spoken to GM Larry Pleau about the team's plans, he understands he'll have to be able to respond in what could be a short period of time. "I'll have to be prepared and not distracted and have to have an answer ready," Weight said.

THE FIVE HOLE

E.J. Hradek
The Devils, who carry a six-game winning streak into the week, seem to have found their way under GM/interim coach Lou Lamoriello. According to several Devils, they've returned to playing a strong defensive game after some hard work in practice. On Thursday, they'll get an excellent test when they complete a three-game road swing in Nashville. The speedy Predators will challenge the Devils' two-way game. And, the game features a battle between world-class goaltenders Marty Brodeur and Tomas Vokoun. This is the only meeting between the teams this season, but Brodeur (Canada) and Vokoun (Czech) could face one another next month at the Olympics.
Scott Burnside
Toronto at Ottawa, Saturday: The Leafs are 0-for-4 this season against their provincial rival, including 8-0 and 8-2 drubbings. This Hockey Night in Canada special will be significant as the Leafs suddenly find themselves in the thick of a five-team race for the final three playoff berths in the Eastern Conference.
FANTASY ISLAND
Who to pick up: Reports indicate that Michael Nylander will be bumped up to the Rangers' second line, meaning the possibility of more points. Might be good to pick him up, activate him or keep him in your starting lineup this week.
Who to drop: Joni Pitkanen still might not be ready this week as he recovers from abdominal surgery. It is likely best to keep the defenseman on reserve.
IN THE BOX
With all of the NHL personnel changes this week, we thought the song Planet Telex by Radiohead would be a perfect pick for this week's In The Box. Just say it over and over again: "Everything is broken."
THEY SAID IT
"We thought the bottom was hit two nights ago and tonight we found a way to go lower. We've seen China."
-- Boston goalie Andrew Raycroft after a 6-0 loss to Los Angeles on Thursday night.

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