The Washington Times - May 1, 2011, 02:28PM

Watching a morning skate is often about trying to read between the lines of little actions. If a player who is usually in the lineup remains on the ice with the rest of the expected scratches, it usually means he is also out. And when guys come off early, it’s normally a sign they’re playing.

Sunday brought a lot of signs that Mike Knuble could play for the Capitals in Game 2 Sunday night, including some odd comments from Bruce Boudreau two hours before face-off.

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Knuble stepped off the ice during the Caps’ morning skate while injured defenseman Dennis Wideman and Tom Poti stayed out there with the team’s “Black Aces” and anticipated healthy scratches.

“It’s an optional. They’re allowed to come off when they wanna come off,” Boudreau said Sunday morning. “You’re gonna ask me this every day, and hopefully by the end of the series he’ll be playing.”

Asked directly about Knuble’s availability a few minutes later, Boudreau said “I doubt it. He’ll be in, I hope, by the end of the series.”

Matt Hendricks stayed out for about 20 minutes longer than every other player expected to be in the Game 2 lineup against the Lightning, but that may have been just to work on his shot and his game. He did not take part in the bag skate for scratched players.

But in his pregame meeting with members of the media, when asked if Knuble would take warm-ups, Boudreau responded: “He might take warm-up just to give the guys some inspiration here.”

Asked if he was saying that Knuble was not playing, the coach got a bit confrontational.

“I didn’t say anything. I just said he’s here. He’s taking warm-up as an inspiration,” Boudreau said. “I told you this morning what I told yas here. Quit asking the question.”

As recently as Saturday, Knuble stuck to his predictable answers about when he could be ready to go.

“This can be a long series, so it’s just gonna be keep going day to day and see what happens here. Nothing new,” he said.

Knuble suffered what is believed to be a right hand injury in Game 3 against the Rangers on April 17. Lately he has spent extra time on the ice for conditioning purposes, working with some young players.

“It keeps you up in the pace of the game and stuff like that,” Knuble said Saturday. “It’s not the same as playing a game – just trying to stay positive and be ready when the time comes and you get the go-ahead.”

How soon will that go-ahead come? Stay tuned.