After three games spent watching rather than playing, Mike Knuble was back in the Capitals’ lineup Friday night against the Florida Panthers. After a week where trade speculation swirled and he expressed his displeasure at being a healthy scratch, the veteran right wing thought about what he could do to help Washington win.
“It’s nice to come in. You come in as a player and you think about [it], you don’t dwell on what has happened this season,” Knuble said of how he approached the contest. “You’ve got to look at the present right now because that’s the most important thing for us is to try to get in the playoffs. And you think as a player, ‘How am I going to help this team when I’m in there?’ And you try and do those things. I was happy to get a bounce or two.”
Knuble finished with 11 minutes and 34 seconds of ice time, two shots on goal, three hits and an assist on Alex Ovechkin’s goal that marked his first point since Jan. 13.
Knuble was ever so close to recording his first goal since Dec. 5 as well when he tipped a shot by Brooks Laich past Jose Theodore, but rather than celebrating a tally late in the second period, he went to the penalty box having been whistled for goaltender interference instead. Replays show the goal likely should have counted, but Knuble tried to not make too much of the call.
He and the Capitals as a whole spent the entire evening trying to create traffic in front of the Florida net and while he didn’t want to see a goal disallowed, it was a signal to Knuble that he was “in the right spot.” That locale has always led to success for Knuble, so it’s a safe bet he’ll be there a good bit more in hopes of trying to stay in the lineup.
After having the goal waved off late in the second, Knuble didn’t stop going to the net and his presence in front of Theodore helped Ovechkin even the score early in the third.
“Just being around the net and puck is bouncing around and it ends up kind of hitting you there. But traffic in front, I think that was a big thing. You want to get pucks to the net, and it’s easy when Jose can just see ’em. You’re not going to have much success. You want to have bodies around,” Knuble said before explaining his view of Ovechkin’s goal.
“Marcus [Johansson] kind of shot it, I got a stick on it and their guy kind of slides and you’re just creating a little bit of a cluster in front,” Knuble said. “And then it bounces around and all of a sudden it’s on Alex’s stick.”