Although Coach Bruce Boudreau would not commit to a lineup for Tuesday’s game against Anaheim, it appears possible that Mike Knuble will find himself on the fourth line.
That’s where the 39-year-old veteran found himself late in Saturday’s 7-4 loss in Vancouver, and that’s where he was again Monday for practice. Knuble was a stalwart on the first line a season ago but has been moved around quite a bit in the opening month this season.
“I guess it could mean a lot of things,” said Knuble, who practiced on a forward combo with Mathieu Perreault and Jeff Halpern. “We’ve dropped two straight so guys are moved around. I don’t know if it’s part of a process or if it’s just the way it is today. Certainly after you haven’t won in a couple of games, there’s going to be some mixing up, some shaking up. We’ll see how it works out tomorrow.”
In nine games, Knuble has six points (two goals and four assists), which has him tied for fourth on the team in offensive production. Against the Canucks, he had a goal and his first minus rating (-1) of the season.
“I think I’ve played well in games and maybe not as great the past couple,” Knuble conceded. “But I showed up in Philly. I showed up vs. Detroit. I showed up in Pitt. …I think a lot of us failed in Vancouver. But, for me personally, I’ve showed up against the top teams.”
Boudreau said he talked with Knuble one-on-one after practice but would not elaborate on the conversation. The coach also hinted that because ice time is being distributed more evenly this season, dropping Knuble to the fourth line isn’t necessarily a demotion.
“We’ve had him everywhere,” Boudreau said. “Right now we have four right wingers and one of them has to play the left side. We’re just trying to get the right fit.”
If Boudreau was also trying to send Knuble a message, it sounds like that message has been received loud and clear.
“We’re all competitive,” Knuble said. “We all want to play. We knew coming into this year that it was going to be a more competitive season as far as how the lineup would stack up. Maybe if you were here the season before you could rest on your laurels for a little bit of time. But that’s not good enough moving forward. That’s the way pro sports works.”