Caps bench Knuble

Caps bench Knuble
February 9, 2012, 4:00 pm
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Mike Knuble will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season tonight when the Capitals face the Winnipeg Jets at the Verizon Center.

In 53 games this season, Knuble has three goals and eight assists and is a team-worst minus-14.

Knuble, 39, will be replaced in the lineup by Jay Beagle. Keith Aucoin is also expected to play.

"It's always hard to do," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "We're putting Beagle in for more speed. Mike hasn't scored in a while. We figured we'd have him up top in the press box to watch the game."

Asked to speak to reporters after the clubs morning skate, the normally accommodating Knuble said, No thanks, guys.

The last time Knuble was a healthy scratch for the Capitals was on April 9, 2010, when several Capitals were given nights off before the playoffs. Tonight, however, will be against his will.

"I've been through it," Hunter said. "If you've played hockey, you've been through it and you don't like it. That's the way you want the guy to react. He can't say, 'Oh, it's fine.' He doesn't like it, but it's part of hockey."

The benching of Knuble likely will not go over well in the Capitals locker room, where he is considered one of the team's most respected and well-liked players.

"We know he's a team leader," Hunter said. "He worked out hard after practice. That's what leadership's all about. We're just going with more team speed and he's the odd man out."

Hunter said it's a decision he did not want to make.

"You never want to," he said. "He's been a real pro. He's a leader, but these are decisions coaches have to make."

Knuble is struggling through the worst offensive season of his career. He has not scored in 27 games.

Asked on Wednesday if he thought he might be traded before the Feb. 27 trade deadline, he quipped, Who wants a 39-year-old guy with three goals?

Defenseman John Erskine is expected to be the Caps other healthy scratch. Tomas Vokoun is slated to make his third straight start.