WASHINGTON – It really didn’t dawn on Mike Knuble about coming back to Verizon Center for the first time until late Friday afternoon.
By then, the 40-year-old center had already digested Peter Laviolette’s game plan and was thinking about what it would take to snap a two-game Flyers losing streak when he got here.
“It really kind of snuck up on me,” Knuble said. “I had other things to deal with and adjust to and coming up here we are already and this is my fourth game I’ve played. It came on quick.
“It’s a building that I always felt comfortable playing in and it will be fun to play against friends.”
Knuble made sure to see the members of Caps training staff who were already on the scene when he arrived. Ex-teammates would have to wait until after the game.
“You got to focus on what you need to do,” he said. “But I am sure I’ll see people after.”
Everyone knows Alex Ovechkin has great career numbers against the Flyers – 23 goals, 15 assists in 26 games.
Not everyone remembers that Knuble has good numbers against the Caps, too -13 goals, 14 assists in 38 games played.
“There were some lean years in there for the Capitals, though,” Knuble said. “For me, I just try to keep improving and three games in, my conditioning is getter better.
“I’m trying to figure out my role here and all that which I have enjoyed so far. It’s been a lot of fun so far. I wish we had more wins.”
He admits he is surprised by how the Caps are struggling right now under first-year coach Adam Oates.
“Everyone is coming out of the [lockout] differently,” Knuble said. “This is a tough year. It’s very unpredictable for staffs to gauge their team coming out training camp. You’re right into the games and you have to see what your team is lacking and what it needs.
“It’s basically trial by fire in the middle of games. General managers have not been able to assess their teams. Now they have to assess them in games that count and it’s a very difficult thing. You literally keep your fingers crossed to see how you come out of the gate.”
Knuble played three seasons here in Washington. His first year, the club had a 14-game win streak. Part of that streak occurred during Super Bowl Sunday during an early afternoon match against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Caps-Pens, who played in the Winter Classic in 2011 when Knuble scored, will do it again this Super Bowl Sunday before the Ravens-49ers go at it.
“Those Super Bowl day games with Pittsburgh were awesome hockey games,” Knuble said.
“Couple of years in a row we played them. It was lot of fun. The team was going through good times and we won a ton of games. Next year, we lost a ton of games. But that was a fantastic game.”
That’s one of the great things about sports. The memories last even when the cheering fades.