About nine minutes into the first period Thursday night against the Penguins, there was a familiar combination on the ice for the Capitals as Mike Knuble skated a shift with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The trio created the best offensive pressure in the game to that point and got off three shots on goal.
They weren’t together the entire game but it’s possible that more time among the top six forwards could be in the offing for the veteran right wing. Based on the shift charts available at TimeOnIce.com, Knuble skated parts of six shifts with Ovechkin and Backstrom with three coming in the first period and the other three shifts occurring late in the third period.
“We did have a good shift,” Knuble said. “Ovi probably deserved to score there, [Marc-Andre] Fleury made a great save on him. I think it kind of happened on accident and he kind of let it go for two, three more shifts.”
Eight minutes and 15 seconds into the contest, Troy Brouwer, who has often skated on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom this year, hopped over the boards for a shift with Jeff Halpern and Matt Hendricks. The next shift Knuble, Ovechkin and Backstrom were sent onto the ice.
“With Mike it gives them a chance, he scored some big goals here and he goes to the net well,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “So it backs off the D and creates some chances for our skilled guys.”
Knuble played the first two games of the season on the first line before being dropped to the second against the Penguins back on Oct. 13. Then at the end of October, after Washington’s 7-4 loss to Vancouver, Knuble was demoted to the fourth line where he’s spent the majority of his playing time since.
In Friday’s practice at KCI, though, Knuble was working on the right side of a line with Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson with Cody Eakin rotating in.
“I think I just come in and I’m ready for anything,” Knuble said. “I hope to be in the mix, to be in the nine or 10 forwards that he’s going with.”