Mike Knuble very noticeably kept his hands in his sweatshirt pockets Thursday and did very limited on-ice work the past couple days. Then Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau confirmed it – the veteran right wing will miss Saturday’s Game 5.
Knuble is believed to have an injured right hand, something he suffered in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon. He has yet to practice with his teammates since and called himself “day-to-day” on Thursday.
But the Caps will have to try to close out the Rangers back at Verizon Center without him.
“Obviously he’s a big part of our team, but we take pride in the fact that we can bring guys in that can do the job,” forward Matt Bradley said. “You can’t replace a guy like Mike Knuble but [Eric Fehr] played really well.”
Bradley, who has been forced to sit out games with injury, said that’s worse than playing hurt.
“If you’re playing through injury there might be pain, but at least you’re playing and you can deal with it, it’s fine,” Bradley said. “But having to watch a game with something like he has is exactly what I went through – it’s very tough because you wanna play so badly but you just can’t do it.”
Brooks Laich is expected to at least start Game 5 on the Caps’ top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.
“With Mike Knuble out, it makes it a better fit,” Boudreau said – adding that if it doesn’t work it could change very quickly.
Marcus Johansson in large part helped make up for Knuble’s absence in Game 4, scoring two goals in front of the net like the 38-year-old likes to. And while the young Swedish center said there wasn’t a concerted effort as a team to score those kinds of goals, he and his teammates know how to do it.
“Everyone has seen how he’s scored a lot of goals this year and I think we all need to learn from that,” Johansson said. “We haven’t scored many two-on-one goals and three-on-two goals this year – you get the goals from getting rebounds and getting people in front of the net. Sometimes that’s all you need.”