LOS ANGELES | Getting Mike Knuble onto the Washington Capitals’ first line has been a hope of many fans who have watched the respected veteran right wing languish on the fourth line. The recent development of his being on the second trio is an upgrade, but he’s there because of injuries – first to Alexander Semin and now Nicklas Backstrom.
It’s a chance that Knuble is trying to take advantage of.
“It’s a good opportunity. You just try to play well,” Knuble said. “You can’t worry about the end results of getting goals and assists because you’ve got to play well first.”
Anyone who has watched Knuble since his breakout 2002-03 season knows what it’s like when he’s playing well. It’s no coincidence that “Knuble’s Office” is the area in and around the crease and that a great majority of his goals are scored from just a few feet out.
That’s not happening right now, and not being in the right spot may be part of the problem.
“You just do what you’ve had success with in the past, just keep going back to that – go to the net, be around the net. That’s where the puck’s got to go,” an introspective Knuble said in the visiting locker room at Staples Center on Monday afternoon. “If you’re doing that enough, the bounces start coming your way and they start going in again.”
It’s an adjustment, the 39-year-old admitted, to play the left side of the second line alongside Marcus Johansson at center and Semin on right wing. But it was Knuble’s pass that sprung Johansson for the Caps’ first goal against the Los Angeles. That assist was his first point of any kind since Dec. 9.
Knuble’s stats through 40 games: three goals, 10 assists and a minus-8 rating. But he doesn’t want to measure success and failure this year based on that.
“I don’t think you can because it’s been a weird season like that,” Knuble said. “It’s funny because the numbers don’t look good: Plus minus and stuff like that are terrible.”
Knuble has admitted countless times that he’s not a great player but rather one who thrives when put with talented teammates and linemates. He has made a living alongside Joe Thornton, Simon Gagne, Alex Ovechkin and others.
And though being on a fourth line with guys like Jeff Halpern, Mathieu Perreault and Matt Hendricks fits Knuble’s grinding style, it doesn’t exactly pave the way for a lot of offensive production from him.
Knuble admits that his numbers are “glaring” in a bad way, but he insisted he didn’t want to make excuses for why. He doesn’t need to make excuses, as a reduced role not playing with Ovechkin or Backstrom for much of the year has hurt not only him but apparently also the Caps.
With all that said, does Knuble think he’s playing well?
“It’s hard to say. I think in the beginning of the year I thought I was, but then it’s really hard to get a read on things when you’re not playing a ton,” he conceded. “It’s really hard to come out with a take of the game.
“You always want more. I guess you’re never satisfied. And do I think I can do more and do better? Of course I do.”