Mike Knuble didnt need to read the writing on his birth certificate to read the writing on the wall.
When the Capitals acquired power forward Troy Brouwer, 26, from the Blackhawks for a first-round draft pick in June and signed Joel Ward, 30, as a free agent the following week, Knuble realized his days as a top-six forward in the NHL might be nearing an end.
At 39, Knuble has spent much of the past two weeks on the Capitals fourth line with center Jeff Halpern and left wing Matt Hendricks. As a result, his average ice time has dropped nearly 3 minutes a game from last season, from 17:52 to 15:01.
Knubles production is also on the downturn. After netting 24 goals and 40 points last season, his lowest totals in eight years, Knuble has two goals and seven point this season and is one pace for 10 goals and 36 points.
It is an adjustment, he said. Thats the way its looking like its going to be. You can take pride in that. Every time youre on the ice theres is a chance to contribute to the team.
Does every guy on the bench want to be on the ice more? Of course. You want to be out there as much as you can. The trick is to realize every second youre out there is valuable, whether its seven minutes of ice or 17.
As a top-line power forward with the Flyers and Capitals. Knuble has enjoyed the benefits of playing alongside Peter Forsberg, Simon Gagne, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. He said he now needs to take pride in keeping opponents off the board while providing energy on a fourth line and chipping in on the power play and penalty kill.
You almost have to have a different priority, Knuble said. The three of us can keep it simple. It might not always be about scoring a goal but trying to swing the momentum. Jeff and Matt are really hard workers, so theyre good inspiration for me to work as hard as they do. If we chip in (with goals) we chip in.
With rookie Cody Eakin still trying to prove himself as a top-six winger, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau is careful not to pigeon-hole Knuble as a fourth-line player, saying his role could increase as the season unfolds.
There will be certain times this year when Mike is definitely going to be in another position, Boudreau said. We know he can do both. We know he can be a responsible player and he can score.
Its a long season. By Game 20 who knows? He might be on a different line with a different role. I know hes a guy who handles the right side or left side and handles it with ease.