Mike Knuble estimated that it has been 10 years since he was held out of the lineup as a healthy scratch prior to Thursday’s game against Winnipeg, which he didn’t suit up for. While the veteran knows he doesn’t have strong statistics this season, he hopes he’s performed better than the numbers indicate.
He also knows that with the number of healthy forwards on the Capitals’ roster somebody will be sitting out every game. Heading into Sunday’s matchup with the Eastern Conference leading New York Rangers, Knuble doesn’t know if he will be in the lineup to take on the Blueshirts.
“It’s very humbling,” Knuble said. “It takes you back to when you were a young player trying to find your way. You definitely don’t like it; you hate it as a player. You can’t walk around and pout, though, and be miserable about it. It’s not the first time it’s happened to somebody, it won’t be the last time.”
Knuble said Coach Dale Hunter called him into his office and told him he wouldn’t be facing the Jets, citing his lack of offensive production and team-worst minus-14 rating. The 39-year-old alternate captain hasn’t scored in his past 27 games, with his last tally coming on Dec. 5.
Asked if Knuble would face the Rangers, Hunter called it a “game time decision”.
“He’s a leader, so it’s always tough,” Hunter said of deciding whether to put Knuble in the lineup. “You need leadership in the room It’s just one of those things. We thought it was necessary at the time to add more speed and we’ll miss his leadership, but it gives other people a chance to become more vocal in the dressing room.”
Knuble has been up and down the lineup this season, and unlike previous years he hasn’t been used primarily as a complement to the Capitals’ main offensive threats. Throughout his career, Knuble has routinely acknowledged that his output typically stems from the caliber of his linemates but on the few occasions he was placed on the top unit this season things didn’t work out as well either.
“I can’t say that I’ve played consistently well enough. I thought I played well in January, thought I had a few bad breaks -- hit the post a couple times consecutively,” Knuble said. “Bottom line is you didn’t finish, that didn’t go in for you. A little bit of coulda, shoulda, woulda. There’s still a lot of time in the season and lot of games left. Dale’s got to put the best lineup he can out there, what he feels the best gives the team best chance to win.”