Mike Knuble and Roman Hamrlik were believed to be two of the most likely candidates to possibly depart Washington prior to the trade deadline, but now that it has come and gone with no movement, the two veterans were exactly where they were before the trade rumors – taking part in the scratches skate.
Both Knuble and Hamrlik were on the ice for extra work along, with John Erskine and the Capitals’ assistant coaches, after Tuesday’s morning skate and will be out of the lineup once again against the Islanders.
For Knuble, this marks the sixth time in the past 10 games he has sat out. For Hamrlik, it’s the fourth straight contest. As the players came off the ice, a team spokesman said they would not speak with reporters.
“Just told them they’re not playing tonight,” Coach Dale Hunter said when asked if he had a conversation with either Knuble or Hamrlik. “Get ready to play; you never know when you get in.”
Unprompted, Hunter compared Knuble and Hamrlik’s predicament to that of Jeff Schultz. The 26-year-old defenseman fell out of favor early after the arrival of Hunter and Jim Johnson, and from Dec. 9 to Feb. 1 he played in only two of 20 games. Since he was put back in the lineup at Florida on Feb. 1, though, Schultz has played in 12 of 13 contests.
“It’s like Schultzie, how he was scratched, I don’t even know how many [games]. And now what is he doing?” Hunter said. “He didn’t say anything, he just went out, worked hard in practice and it proves a point….When you do get in and you play well, like Schultzie has, he deserves to be in the lineup and that’s what bumps out another guy.
“If Hamr or Knubes get in and they play well,” Hunter continued, “They’ll bump out another guy. That’s the way it is.”
The two oldest players on the Capitals’ roster have both expressed their frustration at being scratched publicly, but according to teammates, their unhappiness hasn’t been a factor in the dressing room.
“They’ve been so professional about it. They haven’t dragged or brought any of it into the locker room. They’re both positive,” Brooks Laich said. “Jay Beagle gets in for Mike and Mike’s patting him on the back, saying, ‘You’re playing good, try to do this a little bit more.’ He’s still helping him find his game.
“Those are guys that you respect, guys that do that,” Laich continued. “There’s a reason they’ve been around that long, there’s a reason Mike wears an ‘A’ and is a leader on this team. They’re going to be a big part of this hockey team for the rest of the year.”
— Hunter wouldn’t divulge who would get the nod in net for the Capitals against the Islanders tonight at Verizon Center, but after strong performances in back-to-back games, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Michal Neuvirth start a third straight contest.