Mike Knuble went into the season as the Washington Capitals' first-line right wing. Maybe he would spend time on the second line, but the reliable scorer and alternate captain sure didn't seem destined for life on the fourth line.
Or in the press box as a healthy scratch.
But that's the spot Knuble is in now, three games out of the lineup for performance reasons. And for the first time Tuesday, the 39-year-old respected leader admitted a change might be in order.
"You can be content and just sit there and let things happen as they may, or you can force an issue. You have to kind of decide that two weeks before the trade deadline," Knuble said. "If a player is not going to be used or in the near future if you don't have plans, then that player probably wouldn't want to be there. That's how we are in our league. You want to go somewhere where you're going to play and you're going to contribute to the team. And if you can't do it in one place, then you've got to go."
Knuble may not have officially requested a trade, but those pointed comments ooze the frustration of an unhappy player.
"It gets you thinking. It should be. You're competitive. We're all competitive and we want to play and we want to contribute," he said. "If it's not irritating you and you're not thinking about your options, then you might as well stop playing then."
Coach Dale Hunter said it was a matter of numbers why Knuble hasn't played.
"We follow stats and he hasn't got a point in the last 11 games he's played and he's been a minus player, so basically that's what it was," Hunter said.
Knuble's last goal came Dec. 5, and he has just three to go along with eight assists and a minus-11 rating this season. A couple players pointed out that it's not all about the numbers and that Knuble brings intangible value in the locker room.
"You’re always going to miss leadership — it’s part of the game. You have to have other leaders step up and play," the coach said. "I don't think that that's the issue."
Asked if Knuble would get back into game action, Hunter said: "Yeah, he will eventually. It's a game-time decision, but it’s always who plays the best and who doesn't play well. We'll watch tape, and we'll bring new faces in."
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