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Capitals’ Hendricks learning from Knuble as he looks to improve scoring touch

- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 1, 2011

When Matt Hendricks scored the tying goal in the third period of the Washington Capitals' preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, it looked familiar. It almost looked like a Mike Knuble goal.

That's really not a coincidence. Hendricks has made it no secret that he likes to score and wants to score more this season, and he has been trying to take after the veteran right wing as part of doing so.

They spent some time after offseason workouts shooting and the two have worked on extra stuff after practice, too.

"[I'm] just working on shooting, timing, finding the net," Hendricks said. "What I find is it's starting to give you a little bit more confidence that you can score or shoot to score, find areas that are open. Just the feeling of shooting hard and hitting the net."

Practice might make perfect, but it's not everything for Hendricks in his attempt to follow Knuble's lead. Hendricks spends a lot of time watching Knuble's game.

"I think watching him, I learn more from just the areas that he goes to — his timing, when he goes to the net instead of just going there and standing there for no reason," Hendricks said. "He goes there at the right times and finds those dirty goals."

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau didn't know about Hendricks looking up to Knuble and trying to mimic that style of scoring. But he and several players have praised the forward for his work ethic — and his underrated shot.

"Matt works so hard. The last game here he could've had three, and he deserves one every now and again," Boudreau said. "Matt Hendricks has got a great shot — he just, sometimes, doesn't get it off. And he should shoot more because we know he has a great shot."

The physical tools are there, as evidenced by some 20-plus-goal seasons in the minors.

"He definitely has the hands and the shot. You wouldn't need many chances to be able to put pucks in with those two things. A lot of times it's just opportunity," center Jeff Halpern. "It's a really tough league to score five-on-five.  When you play third and fourth-line minutes, you have to figure out a way to produce and score. I think as he gets more and more opportunities, he's going to turn into more of a goal-scorer."

Friday's goal was from a bit further out from the area that Knuble usually scores from. But Hendricks was in the right place when Mike Green's rebound shot came out to him.

"I didn't really look, I just shot it and it went in," he said. "That's a good one to have."

Knuble has scored 20 or more goals in eight straight seasons — and he did almost all of that in his 30s. Hendricks just turned 30, and his benchmark for the season (after back-to-back nine-goal campaigns) is to hit double digits.

"That's my goal — and beyond," he said. "I've got to get to 10 first before I get beyond that."

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