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“We watch game film, we look at stats,” Hunter said. “I have the final decision, but we do it as a committee in the coaches’ room and decide which is the best to try to win that game.”

The Caps lost in a shootout Thursday with Jay Beagle in the lineup replacing Knuble. And while Beagle is still finding his way in the NHL, Knuble’s time is waning. His contract with Washington, an extension signed last spring, is up after this season.

“[You think,] ‘How was the end going to play out?’ Everybody wants to wrap up like Mark Recchi and win it as a hero and a Stanley Cup,” Steve Knuble said. “He’s been fortunate to be around long enough and not have to bounce around at the end of his career.”

There’s uncertainty about Knuble’s career moving forward, but in the immediate future uncertainty about whether he’ll be in the Caps’ lineup Sunday at the New York Rangers. Being a healthy scratch for one game is one thing, but two in a row sends an entirely different message.

Hunter doesn’t seem concerned about any of this having a negative impact on the locker room.

“He’s a leader, so it’s always tough where you need leadership in the room,” the Caps’ coach said. “It was one of those things that we thought it was necessary at the time; we add more speed. We’ll miss his leadership, but it gives other people another chance to become more vocal in the dressing room.”

Knuble just wants more chances to score goals. That has been his life in hockey for almost a decade now.

“The fact is, it’s not coming,” he said. “It’s not coming for me; it’s not coming from people I’ve been playing with. Here we are.”