- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mike Knuble’s most-recent goal for the Washington Capitals came Dec. 5 at the Florida Panthers, a drought of 31 games going into Thursday night’s matchup with Winnipeg.

But Knuble didn’t get the chance to end it against the Jets, as he was a healthy scratch for performance reasons for the first time during his three-year tenure in Washington.

Knuble has just three goals and eight assists in 53 games, but the 39-year-old right wing’s respected position in the locker room made the decision surprising.

“You don’t like it, and that’s the way you want the guy to react. You can’t say, ‘Oh, it’s fine.’ He doesn’t like it, but it’s part of hockey,” coach Dale Hunter said. “But we’re just going to add more team speed, and he’s the odd man out.”

The addition of speed came in the form of Jay Beagle, who did not have a goal this season.

For Knuble, this has been a frustrating season not only because of his stats, which include a minus-14 rating, but because he has bounced up and down the lineup and spent long periods of time on the fourth line getting limited minutes.

Knuble, who’s usually one of the most affable players in the locker room, offered a polite “no thanks, guys” when approached following the morning skate. Hunter pointed out that all players deal with this, and Knuble’s teammates were positive about how the veteran would respond.

“You just be supportive. He’s a good player, and we want him in the lineup,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “He’s a great leader. But the coaches are going to make their decisions. Mike’s a good team guy, and he’ll be around and making sure that he’s preparing us for the game.”

Green ‘on schedule’

Mike Green was supposed to start skating two weeks after sports hernia surgery Jan. 17 and did just that. He was on the ice four straight days before three off, and he resumed that routine this week.

Thursday was the third straight day Green skated, and Hunter voiced optimism about the defenseman’s progress.

“So he’s on schedule; that’s what the main thing is,” the Caps’ coach said. “He feels better. He feels more comfortable out there than he was before.”

Schultz improving

Jeff Schultz spent 12 straight games as a healthy scratch, then appeared in his fifth straight Thursday night. For a defenseman who seemed to have a permanent residency in the Caps’ dog house, it’s a bit of a surprise.

“It feels like I’m in a little bit more each game, that I’m staying in the game,” Schultz said. “Things are coming back slowly, timing-wise and conditioning and stuff like that.”

Hunter has said that the 25-year-old does not add much offense or toughness, but assistant coach Jim Johnson knows Schultz still is still improving.

“Obviously, you want him to be a little bit more aggressive in certain areas of the ice, especially in the defensive zone because when he’s playing against top players, you want to make it difficult for them to play, especially with his size,” Johnson said.

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