The Washington Times - April 20, 2011, 12:41PM

NEW YORK | Mike Knuble did not make a public appearance at Madison Square Garden. He hasn’t skated since the Capitals’ Game 3 loss to the Rangers. And players talked as if Jason Chimera was on the top line for Wednesday night’s Game 4 and Eric Fehr was in the lineup.

Finally, he was not on the ice for pre-game warm-ups. The Caps will be without Knuble for at least this one.

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“It’s always tough. He’s been really good for us all year and he scores goals – he scored a goal the last game,” center Marcus Johansson said. “It just means we all gotta step up here and play a really good game.”

Knuble appeared to get hit in the right hand by a shot late in the second period Sunday and could be seen taking his glove off and inspecting the hand following his goal.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t even want to answer a question about whether Knuble made the trip to New York. It’s believed that he didn’t.

“I’m not gonna talk about any players today,” he snapped. “So whether he did, his equipment’s up there, you’ll see tonight whether he’s here or whether he’s not.”

The Caps left their game equipment at the Garden following Game 3, knowing they wouldn’t need it until Wednesday night, so Knuble’s equipment was there.

But that very well may be gamesmanship from Boudreau. The way players were talking, it seemed like Knuble wasn’t anywhere around the team.

“He’s obviously one of our older guys that’s gone through all the battles,” Fehr said. “It’s tough that he’s not here right now, but we got guys that are gonna have to step up.”

Chimera was talking confidently like a guy playing on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom – which is where he skated Wednesday morning. His teammates said it was helpful that Chimera spent some time on that line earlier this season.

“He’s experienced guy,” Ovechkin said. “He knows how we have to play and what we have to do to be successful.”

Chimera’s speed could be useful for Ovechkin and Backstrom, and he hopes that just by playing his normal style he can open up some ice for the two stars.

“A lot of times you get caught up in trying to do the skill game and stuff instead of just playing your game,” Chimera said. “I’m a guy who can get pucks back for them, get in the offensive zone and create some havoc hopefully that will help maybe get some more offensive zone time.”

The final piece of the puzzle was Fehr coming off the ice well before the healthy scratches. And he was talking like a guy ready to step in.

“It’s been tough to watch,” he said. “You wanna be a part of it all, and tonight I’ll have a good opportunity, hopefully, to pick up where the third line left off.”

There’s no word as to the severity of Knuble’s injury because, of course, it’s playoff time. But what Brooks Laich had to say could be read as an indication that this isn’t a one-game injury.

“He really embodies what we want to play and how we want to play around here,” Laich said. “We’ll have to step up while Mike’s not in the lineup.”