By Matt Slovin –
PLYMOUTH — At 40 years old, nothing that gets thrown Mike Knuble’s way is going to come as much of a surprise, including a potential second stint during a shortened season in Hockeytown.
So when the Red Wings came calling with a tryout invitation to training camp, the East Kentwood High School alum was ready.
“I liked him (Monday),” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “We gave him a good opportunity. He’ll have a good opportunity skating with good players (during Tuesday night’s exhibition).”
This isn’t going to be the easiest year for the University of Michigan graduate to crack Detroit’s forward corps. In a year when the Red Wings are hard-pressed to (impossibly) find a blue-line replacement for Nicklas Lidstrom, the forward group is generally pretty deep.
“I think you gotta just come in and take it day by day,” Knuble said. “It’s something you’re not really used to as a player. You’re used to coming into camp and getting ready for the season. There’s a little more sense of urgency, probably, in myself because it’s a short week and you’ve gotta be on. …You just roll with whatever happens.”
So far, he’s said the experience has been a positive one. And the competition has been fierce, even though the team has only recently reconvened.
“There are a lot of good players here,” Knuble said. “You know they’re good players in games, but you don’t really appreciate it until you practice with them.”
Knuble has spent the past three seasons in Washington. And though he recorded his fewest points (18) since the 2001-02 season, he seemed to find a bit of a groove come the playoffs when he scored two goals and added an assist to contribute to the Capitals’ run to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Knuble was drafted 76th overall by the Red Wings in 1991 and cracked the big-league roster from 1996-98, recording 14 points in two partial seasons with Detroit.
Certainly, the presence of another NHL veteran in the locker room will be a welcomed one in preparation for a season in which every game matters even more than normal. But that’s not to say that Knuble will become a permanent fixture with the Red Wings — Babcock has some tough decisions to make.
“The bottom line is we don’t have exhibition games, and even exhibition games are usually going slow,” Babcock said. “Camp’s slow, and then exhibition games are slow and then the league starts and it’s going way quicker. Then two months later it’s going twice as fast. We have to make decisions on people based on one speed when the game’s going a totally different speed.”