Knuble thankful to be with Philly but filled with mixed emotions returning to DC
When the NHL lockout ended a little less than a month ago Mike Knuble began making a mental checklist of the NHL teams for which he’d be willing to play.
Since he’d already planted roots in East Grand Rapids, Mich., the Red Wings were at the top of that list. But when a training camp tryout did not result in an NHL contract with the Red Wings, Knuble signed with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL.
He didn’t expect his stay to last one game.
“I thought I would play two, three, four weeks and play maybe eight to 10 games before I even thought about the possibility of the NHL,” Knuble said before Friday night’s game against the Capitals at Verizon Center.
But when Flyers right wing Scott Hartnell broke his foot on a slapshot from teammate Kimmo Timonen, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren called Knuble and asked if he’d be interested in a one-year contract worth $750,000.
“I don’t think I was going to play anywhere,” Knuble said, adding the Flyers were on his short list. “I wasn’t going chasing. There were a few teams I would have considered -- places that mean something to me.”
Knuble, who is wearing No. 9 for the Flyers [defenseman Luke Schenn already was given No. 22] had one assist in his first three games with Philadelphia and entered Friday night’s game looking for his first goal against the Capitals since last playing for the Flyers four years ago.
“My head’s been in a whirlwind,” he said. “This game snuck up on me. It came on quick. But it’s a building I feel comfortable playing in.”
Knuble scored 59 goals in three seasons with the Capitals but he’s also had tremendous success against the Caps, recording 27 points in 38 career games against Washington.
“There were some lean years for the Capitals, so don’t believe all those numbers,” Knuble said.
Now a conference rival, Knuble said he’s surprised to see the Caps off to a 1-5-1 start, but no more than seeing the Flyers entering the game with a 2-5-0 mark.
“Everybody is coming out of the gates differently,” he said. “It’s very unpredictable. It’s tough for GMs to gauge their teams coming out training camp. It’s basically trial by fire and GMs have a short amount of time to asses their teams.”
Knuble admits he has not seen much of the Capitals but he heard about Adam Oates’ attempt to use Alex Ovechkin on right wing and experimenting with him on the penalty kill, both of which were abandoned after a few games.
“If this was a longer season I’m sure he’d let him run a little bit more [at right wing],” Knuble said. “He might let it go six or seven games and see what happens. With this shortened season everything lasts two or three games. It doesn’t matter what player it is, but especially with Alex. You need him scoring.”