Friday, December 9, 2011

Perron adjusting to life back in NHL

Coach says player will have ups and downs; second
line needs to produce for team to be effective

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- First, it happened for Sidney Crosby. It also happened for David Perron. The adrenaline was so high, both players couldn't help but be stoked about not only returning to their respective lineups but playing well, too.

Crosby came back after 10 months with a concussion and came away with a four-point night for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Perron didn't have the same impact point-wise for the Blues when he returned against the Chicago Blackhawks after 13 months recovering from a concussion, but he did score a goal and gave the Blues an instant jolt.

Perron has played three games since returning to the lineup after missing 97 games, and as coach Ken Hitchcock said, Perron has, "had the ups and downs that you see."
(Getty Images)
Winger David Perron (57) receives congratulations from teammates
after scoring upon his return to the Blues' lineup last week.

There's certainly been good, but there's also been moments of watching a guy that has missed a year and a month.

"I'm kind of running parallel to Sid Crosby. Obviously energized at the start and feeling his way after that," Hitchcock said of Perron, who's been used on the second line left wing slot with Patrik Berglund. "I think he's done fine. I think the big thing for him is getting into where he's bruise-on-bruise, where you're numb to the fact, your season's on, you're not feeling any aches and pains and you just keep going. He's getting to that stage now.

"I think we're just going to have to live with the peaks and valleys. Everything's so new to him. The grind of the schedule, play, practice, play, practice ... all that stuff. He's just getting used to that stuff. I think the first game, we saw his top-end and then part of that game against Detroit (Tuesday), we saw some of the real good stuff. Those are flashes that I think in the next 10 games are going to become regular events with him."

Perron, Berglund and Chris Stewart had a tough outing Thursday in the Blues' 4-2 win over Anaheim. The line was on the ice for both Ducks goals and seemed a bit disoriented at times. There were good flashes but like Hitchcock said, peaks and valleys will exist.

"The last couple games, my legs weren't really there," Perron said. "I still made some good plays, but I don't think I was satisfied overall with the game. I think that's to be expected for maybe the first 15-20 games. Hopefully, it comes quick. I've just got to be smart and make the right plays at all times. If you're not moving as fast as you'd like to, you have to move the puck quicker. I have to get that hesitation out of the way. It's not that bad; just a little bit off.

"I had so much adrenaline going into the first game. I think I was just going. I didn't think about anything. Obviously when that comes down a little bit, I think I felt pretty tired over the last four, five days. It's just from the emotion of playing games. At least we've been playing well, so that's a good thing."

Maybe there was too much expected too soon from Perron, who has the ability to score quickly and often. But for someone who missed 97 games, there's plenty to get back in a short period of time.

But ...

"We have to start producing now," Perron said. "There's no waiting game in this league. We have to start to produce right now. We're one of the top two lines and we have to play like it. On the other hand, it's my first few games and I've got to get going.

"There's no excuse. I think we've made some good plays, but we've also made some mistakes that we shouldn't be making. ... We've got to find a way to get ourselves going."

Stewart agreed.

"There's no excuses," he said. "You're not going to get anywhere making excuses. We were minus-2 last night (as a line) and we got bailed out by the boys. You put it behind you and get it ready for tomorrow.

"You know the game Perry's going to bring every night. He's strong on the puck, he's a shooter and he's a guy that you definitely want to get the puck to. I'm just going to try and create room for those guys and let them do their thing."

The Blues have been getting scoring from their role players, and that's helped bridge the gap between the David Backes line and the rest. The team has been winning too.

But Hitchcock said for the Blues to compete in the long run, Berglund's line needs to produce consistently. His patience is being tested with the unit as a whole.

"I don't know that we're going to let the line play it out, but I like (Perron) and Bergy together," Hitchcock said. "But we've got to get more from that line.

"We're lucky right now. You talk about secondary scoring, we're getting role player scoring. We're getting people chipping in that are bonuses for us. What we need is for our secondary wave scoring to get going. We need more consistent play from our second wave of players, and if we can get that, then we'll give ourselves a chance to win. We can't expect Backes' line to do everything. Other people have to step up here. That's the challenge facing us here right now."

Perron has had to adjust his role a bit from shooter to playmaker playing on the line.

"They're more shooters first and I'm more the playmaker on that line," Perron said of Berglund and Stewart. "Last year when I was playing with Osh (T.J. Oshie), he was finding me, I was finding him. That way you get more chances. I think you've got to adjust to who you're playing with."

Keeping Perron on that line is something Hitchcock doesn't plan on changing.

"He's the one guy that makes other people around him better because he dishes the puck so well," Hitchcock said of Perron. "I'm excited for him. I think he's healthy, he feels good. It's just a matter of getting used to everything that's going on."

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