Back In The Saddle Again

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

With Caps center Nicklas Backstrom sitting out a one-game NHL-mandated suspension in Game 4 of the team’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Boston Bruins, Washington turned to 39-year-old veteran Mike Knuble. Knuble hadn’t played in two weeks; he was a healthy scratch for the first three games of the series and the final game of the regular season. He stepped into the lineup on the team’s fourth line, skating on the wing along with Joel Ward with Keith Aucoin manning the middle. Knuble’s ice time was somewhat limited early in the game, but not so much in the third period when Washington was valiantly trying to protect a 2-1 lead and even the series at 2-2, a mission they eventually accomplished. Knuble logged 11:16 on the night with nearly half of that total – 5:28 – coming in the game’s third period. Knuble also took the only Washington penalty of the night in the third period, sitting out two minutes in the middle of the stanza. Through most of the game, he and his linemates performed well. They got pucks deep and spent most of the night working in the offensive zone. On a night in which Washington was outshot 45-21, time spent in the offensive zone was relatively rare. “Our goal was to try and tilt the ice,” says Knuble. “We talk about that on the bench during the course of the game, that we have to play down in their end. You’re playing against another fourth line, and you’ve just got to try and out-compete them. Whether you get a shot or not, at least you’re playing their end. “If there is an extended play and a whistle, then you can get a change and now your top line is out there and already in the offensive zone and generating offense. I felt we spent minimal time in our end. After a couple periods, if you can sit there and say, ‘We really haven’t spent much time in our end,’ then I think you’ve got to be really happy about that.” For each of Washington’s last two forays into the postseason, Knuble was a key cog among the club’s top six forwards. His streak of eight straight 20-goal seasons ended this season, a combined victim of incredibly bad luck, sharply diminished ice time and gradually slowing reflexes. But Knuble believes he can still be an asset going forward in these playoffs and into next season. With Backstrom coming back for Saturday’s Game 5, another lineup adjustment will have to be made. Knuble played well after a two-week layoff and hopes he’s not the odd man out. “When you’re in the middle of the season,” he says, “I think you’re still at game speed. Obviously there are little things that happen during the course of the game that – when you’re playing all the time – might happen a little bit smoother. But for the overall being in the game, it felt really good to compete again and play when it matters and play in a meaningful part of the game. “That’s fun for the athlete. You just like to play. When something’s on the line, it’s a lot of fun to play.”

next up:

Game 5 = Game 1

January 14, 2013

With the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between Washington and Boston all even at two games apiece, the series is now a best of three with the Bruins still owning home ice advantage. In effect, today’s contest is like a Game 1. Both teams will be seeking to stamp their imprimatur on the

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