Being the gentleman he is, Mike Knuble began his interview Saturday by apologizing to members of the media for not making himself available on Thursday morning, when he learned hed be an unwilling healthy scratch for the first time in 10 years.
But it was clear from his body language that he was not happy with the decision nor the explanation that came with it.
Its very humbling, he said. It takes you back to your days when youre a young player trying to find your way. You dont like it. You hate it.
But you cant walk around and pout and be miserable about it. Its not the first time its happened to somebody and it wont be the last time. No player wants that. Were here to play hockey and contribute to the team. Thats the number one reason were here and when you cant do that it stings.
When Dale Hunter called Knuble into his office Thursday he brought up the fact Knuble has just three goals this season and is a team-worst minus-14.
I guess the statistics support it a little bit, but stats arent the full story all the time, said Knuble, who did not know on Saturday whether he will return to the lineup on Sunday when the Capitals visit the New York Rangers.
If you go back through my records, this (offensive drought) has never occurred. But the proof lies in the numbers. Sometimes you dont have a good year and you get the numbers and sometimes you play well and you dont have the numbers.
Ive had a few bad breaks. The bottom line is I didnt finish. A little bit of coulda, shoulda, woulda. But there are a lot of games left.
The Caps have 28 games remaining in the regular season but just eight before the Feb. 27 NHL trade deadline. Capitals center Jeff Halpern endured a similar experience when he was scratched by Bruce Boudreau for one game earlier this season.
Its a bad feeling, Halpern said. You try to do anything to change it so it doesnt happen again.
Halpern said the locker room is always impacted when popular players are benched but said Knubles attitude has prevented the Capitals room from becoming fractured.
Ovis a captain, but Noobs is a guy everybody turns to for everything, Halpern said. Hes got a real pulse on whats going on and players have a lot of respect for him. It shouldnt change how you approach things. Its the nature of the business.
Hunter said he will decide on Sunday whether Knuble returns to the lineup or sits out a second game in favor of Jay Beagle, who played a strong game in Thursday nights 3-2 shootout loss to the Jets.
Hes a leader, so its always tough, Hunter said. You need leadership in the room. We thought it was necessary at the time to add more speed. Well miss his leadership but it gives other people another chance to become more vocal in the dressing room.