NEW YORK | Mike Knuble is about as dependable a guy as there is in the Capitals’ locker room. He consistently scores 20 goals a season, cleans up in front and provides a veteran voice for a young team.
So the Caps know what they’re missing when he’s not around as they were forced to play Game 4 Wednesday at New York without Knuble.
“He’s obviously one of our older guys that’s gone through all the battles,” said forward Eric Fehr, who took Knuble’s spot in the lineup. “It’s tough that he’s not here right now, but we got guys that are going to have to step up.”
Knuble scored in Sunday’s Game 3, his first of the series. On the play he got his goal, the 38-year-old right wing appeared to take a shot from defenseman Mike Green to his right hand. He beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, but after a couple seconds of celebrating, Knuble took off his glove and looked at his right hand.
He hasn’t skated since, and teammates hope they can compensate for however long Knuble is out.
“I think that happens a lot when good players go down — everyone else feels a little bit more pressure to fill in for him,” defenseman John Carlson said.
Fehr knew he had to fill the role of a guy standing in front of the net. Jason Chimera moved onto the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom — a place he was used to because he was there in January.
“[Coach Bruce Boudreau] juggles his lines quite a bit in the regular season, so you get used to playing with a lot of guys,” Chimera said. “It’s not totally foreign when you come to a situation like this.”
The situation could be grim. Boudreau wouldn’t talk about Knuble’s status or injury, but players sounded like they could have to adjust to live without him for some time.
“He really embodies what we want to play [like] and how we want to play around here,” forward Brooks Laich said. “We’ll have to step up while Mike’s not in the lineup.”
Garden of dreams
With all the talk about Boudreau’s comments this week criticizing Madison Square Garden — which are based mostly on renovations being made to the old arena — one thing gets lost: Players still enjoy the spotlight here.
“Behind the scenes, it’s not the prettiest arena around,” Fehr said Wednesday morning, “but at the end of the day, it’s one of the most famous ones and it’s kind of cool.”
Renovations are obvious in public and private areas, but when the lights in the seating bowl dim and the puck is dropped, it’s still the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”
“It’s a nice place, and it’s a good atmosphere here and everything,” center Marcus Johansson said. “You’re enjoying every game you get to play right now.”