After a relatively loose morning skate, the Capitals discussed how they will move forward against the Rangers in the Stanley Cup playoffs, beginning with Game 4 tonight, without veteran right wing Mike Knuble in the lineup.
Knuble hasn’t skated for three days, something that only occurred previously this season when he broke his jaw in November. Replay footage from Game 3 shows the winger take off his glove to examine his right hand after scoring a goal, the same shift in which he appeared to have been struck in the hand by a shot from Mike Green.
Over the first three games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, Knuble has one goal and is a plus-1 while averaging 18:03 per game. He’s also among the top five ice-time leaders on the power play (2:29 per game) and top eight in short-handed ice time (1:45) this postseason.
Where the Capitals may miss Knuble the most, regardless of the situation on the ice, is in front of the opposing net. The area in and around the crease is Knuble’s office, and without the 38-year-old in the lineup other Washington players will try to fill that void whether on the power play or even strength.
“That’s usually where the goals are scored and Mike leads the way in that,” Brooks Laich said. “He’s also a big factor on the penalty kill and five-on-five he really embodies a lot of what and how we want to play around here. We’ll have to step up while Mike’s not in the lineup.”
The Capitals are all aware of the need to pick up the slack in Knuble’s absence, making sure they get to the front of the net and up the physical play in the offensive zone. Those traits most identifiable with Knuble are also what Washington hoped to display in Game 4 anyway, so perhaps they can look to his playing style for added guidance.
“I think that we’ve got to take a page out of his book here tonight,” John Carlson said. “Everyone else chipping in and doing the things that he does.”