Since he signed as a free agent with the Capitals two seasons ago, right wing Mike Knuble has always found himself on one of Bruce Boudreaus top two lines.
At Mondays practice the 39-year-old veteran found himself toiling on the left wing with Mathieu Perreault and Jeff Halpern on a fourth line while Jason Chimera took his place on a second line with Marcus Johansson and Alex Semin.
You always take it personally, Knuble said of his demotion, which began midway through the Capitals 7-4 loss to the Canucks Saturday night and is expected to continue Tuesday night at home against the Anaheim Ducks.
Were all competitive and we all want to play. We knew coming in it would be a more competitive season. Maybe seasons before you could rest on your laurels, but thats not good enough. Thats the way this coach works.
Boudreau said he spoke with Knuble immediately after practice, but when asked what his message was, Boudreau responded, Ill keep that between me and Mike.
Through nine games, Knuble has two goals and four assists and is a plus-2 while averaging 15:32 of ice time a game. Last season, he started with one goal in his first 14 games, but finished with 24 goals and 16 assists with a plus-10 rating while averaging 17:52 a game.
Hes generally a slow starter, Boudreau said. Right now, we have four right wings and one of them has to play the left side. Were just trying to get the right fit.
Boudreau also rearranged his checking line, replacing Chimera with Matt Hendricks, who will play on the right side of Brooks Laich and Joel Ward. It will be interesting to see how much time that line plays against Anaheims top unit of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, who have combined for 12 goals in 11 games.
Boudreau said that with the additions of Troy Brouwer and Ward, his forwards should expect to see less ice time this season than they did last year.
So far, the numbers bear that out. Through nine games, each of the Capitals top nine forwards is averaging more than 13 minutes a game, but Alex Ovechkins ice time has dropped from a team-high 21:21 a game to a team-high 18:41.
Minutes have been spread out throughout the whole team, Hendricks said. Its a long season and you have to remember that as well.