- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In real world and hockey terms, Mike Knuble is all of 38 years old, his body having absorbed NHL punishment since the 1996-97 season. But while the Capitals have endured injuries to Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Jason Arnott, Knuble has appeared to roll back his odometer a bit.

“He’s playing like a 24-year-old now,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When other people go down, it’s great you have the depth that other guys can pick it up.”

Knuble has picked it up on a consistent basis lately, registering at least a point in five of his past six games, including three apiece in the past two games. The veteran winger is finding his groove at the right time, even though he said he’s not necessarily trying to ratchet up his offensive game because of injuries.

“Not consciously or anything; I think it’s just been some timing,” he said. “I think there’s points this year where I probably didn’t score as much. So I consider it or attribute it more to things like evening out over the course of a year. It just happens to be at this time I’ve been a little bit more productive.”

The offense has to come from somewhere, and while it’s not usually pretty with Knuble, he knows how to produce. Tuesday was a milestone night for him as he reached the 20-goal mark for the eighth consecutive season, something the Caps winger said is his goal every year.

“It’s something I’m pretty proud of,” he said. “I’ve benefited from longevity, good health and great linemates. You can’t achieve that without great linemates, first and foremost, and being put in a position to get 20. That’s my goal starting out every September to get 20, and so when it does come in I’m very, very happy about it.”

Naturally No. 20 came as Knuble was crashing the net. Flyers defenseman Sean O’Donnell checked Knuble, and he was able to deflect the puck into the net. He admitted being thrilled to have his 20th of the season.

“Yeah, I was worried. You got a seven-year streak going, you don’t want it to end,” he said. “It probably means you’re a consistent player; you know what your team can count on you for, and to do it you gotta stay healthy and be put in the right spot. I’m very happy with my consistency.”

So are the Caps. But it’s even better that he’s hitting a stride now. Ovechkin, Green and Arnott have combined for more than 100 points this season, so that’s a lot of offense to cover in their absence. But just like Knuble said, his teammates know exactly what to expect from him.

“He’s a consistent guy, consistent player and he’s gonna get his 20 goals,” center Boyd Gordon said. “He’s a big body and he always finds a way to get to the front of the net and put the puck in the net. Those guys are great to have.”

Knuble hasn’t just helped himself in this stretch, either. He and 20-year-old center Marcus Johansson have developed a good chemistry - most recently on a line with Jason Chimera. Along with helping Johansson get on the board, Knuble sets an example, too.

“He works hard all the time and does his job and he wins one-on-one battles in the corners,” Johansson said, “and I think he always helps out just by being himself.”