Backstrom, Knuble Discuss Situations

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

Two members of the Caps’ top offensive line from the last two seasons held court for the media today at Kettler before the club departed on a train trip to New York for Sunday’s game with the Rangers. Center Nicklas Backstrom has been sidelined for more than a month with a concussion and right wing Mike Knuble was a healthy scratch on Thursday night against Winnipeg, sitting out because of a coach’s decision for the first time in a decade or so. Both discussed their respective situations. “I’m doing good,” says Backstrom. “It’s a long process but I’m getting better. What I’m doing is the same process as Jay Beagle, and as you can see he is skating and he is playing.” Beagle suffered a concussion in an Oct. 12 game at Pittsburgh and missed about two months of action. “Lately I’ve been doing the bike,” says Backstrom. “I think I’m improving. It takes time, but I’m on a good program right now. Hopefully I’m going to get better soon.” As expected and as is the case with dozens of other players suffering from concussions or head injuries around the NHL right now, there is no set timetable for Backstrom to start practicing again or for him to return to the lineup. “I’m not 100 percent to skate right now,” says the Caps’ center. “We’ll see when it’s going to be time for me to hit the ice. Right now I’m taking it day-by-day and see how it feels.” While Backstrom is taking things day-by-day, Knuble describes his own situation as “day-to-day.” He skated with the fourth-liners at practice on Saturday, but does not know whether or not he’ll be back in the lineup against the Rangers on Sunday. “It’s where we’re at,” shrugs Knuble. “It’s day-to-day. You just go out and you practice hard and be a good teammate to your teammates. That’s how it’s going to go, I think.” A notoriously slow starter, Knuble had played in each of Washington’s first 53 games this season before being told he would not play on Thursday against the Jets. “[Caps coach Dale Hunter] called me in the office,” says Knuble. “We spoke. We talked for a few minutes. He told me I wasn’t going to play, [he] said ‘You haven’t scored in a while and have a bad plus/minus.’ I don’t think stats are the story all the time. I haven’t scored in 29 games or whatever it was. I guess the statistics do support it a little bit. Stats aren’t the full story all the time.” Knuble was asked if he thought he was playing better than the numbers indicate. “I hope so,” he says. “I feel like I have to have a little bit more luck. I’ve never had a streak like that. You can go back to my records; it’s never occurred like that. Even when I was a young player playing in Detroit, it’s never happened like that. “But I guess the proof lies in the numbers. Sometimes you haven’t had a good year, but you get the numbers. Or you don’t have a good game but you have great numbers that game. Sometimes you play well and you don’t get the numbers. “I can’t say I played consistently well enough. I thought I played well in January; I had a few bad breaks, hit the posts a couple times. The bottom line is, you didn’t finish and it didn’t go in for you. It’s a bit of could have, should have, would have. There is still a lot of time [left] in the season, a lot of games left here. “The biggest thing is Dale’s got to put the best lineup he can out there, that he feels gives the team the best chance to win. And somebody is going to be out.” Knuble has scored at least 20 goals in each of the last eight seasons, but two-thirds of the way through the campaign, he has just three goals and 11 points in 2011-12. For most of the last two seasons, Knuble played mainly with Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. He hasn’t played with those two at all this season, and his power play ice time is down as well. Knuble has been relegated to third- or fourth-line duty since late October. “I really haven’t locked in a niche,” notes Knuble. “I haven’t found a niche. That’s a big thing as a player. You want to find where you’re going to be in the lineup and what you can do. I think I was never lined up to be with the same linemates from the years past. I had a chance to check, and I feel like I can check, too. And then it’s just a question of who [Hunter] feels comfortable putting out there. “The minus-14, you’ve got to cancel out some of those [by] being out on the ice for goals and offensive chances. You’ve got to start with offensive chances and get some goals. And the fact is that it’s not coming. It’s not coming for me and it’s not coming for the people I’ve been playing with. Here we are.” Aside from a late-season scratch in 2009-10 so he could be more rested for the playoffs, the 39-year-old Knuble had not been a healthy scratch in nearly a decade. “It’s been 10 years,” says Knuble. “It’s very humbling. It takes you back to the days when you were a young player trying to find your way. You definitely don’t like it. You hate it as a player. You can’t walk around and pout and be miserable about it. It’s not the first time it’s happened to somebody and it won’t be the last time. “No player likes that. You’re here to play hockey and contribute to the team. It’s your No. 1 purpose and the No. 1 feeling you’ve got to have every night to help contribute to your team. When you’re told you’re not going that night, it really stings.”

next up:

Fatigue Factor

January 14, 2013

Tonight the Caps will face the San Jose Sharks in the second of back-to-back games for both teams. The Caps absorbed a 3-2 loss to the Rangers in New York on Sunday afternoon while the Sharks were on the short end of a 3-0 shutout loss to the Blues in St. Louis. Washington took the train back to

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