Capitals lineup changes bring familiar faces vs. Bruins
|04.19.12 at 1:38 pm ET|
WASHINGTON — Nicklas Backstrom will be out of the lineup for Game 4 after being suspended by the league for cross-checking Rich Peverley in the face. The Bruins know that, and they also know the guy jumping into the lineup in his place.
Former Bruin Mike Knuble, who had the first of his two career 30-goal seasons while playing for Boston in 2002-03, will enter the Capitals’ lineup Thursday skating on the Washington’s fourth line.
Knuble, 39, finally saw his production and playing time fall off this past season with the Caps. After totaling at least 40 points in eight straight seasons (with at least 53 in five of them), Knuble had just 18 points and a minus-15 rating in 72 games this season. He’d also scored 20 goals or more in his past eight seasons before scoring just six during this past regular season.
Based on Washington’s morning skate Thursday, Knuble will play on a line with Keith Aucoin and Joel Ward.
Knuble’s presence in place of Backstrom isn’t the only lineup change anticipated for the Capitals. Defenseman John Erskine has skated on Washington’s third pairing with Dennis Wideman in place of Jeff Schultz for the last two days, suggesting the 6-foot-4, 224-pounder should be in the lineup for the first time since Feb. 12.
The Bruins — and Milan Lucic in particular –also know Erskine well, as Lucic has fought Erskine twice in his career. Erskine pummeled Lucic on Jan. 3, 2008, which was Lucic’s ninth NHL fight. The two had a much more evenly matched bout last season.
‘It brings some toughness,” Capitals defenseman Mike Green said of having Erskine in the lineup. “You’ve seen him play. What you see is what you get. He brings a sense of humbleness to the other team. And that’s what we need.’
All in the all, the changes to Washington’s lineup means the Capitals will ice a grittier team Thursday night at the Verizon Center. Knuble obviously brings the wisdom of years, while Erskine brings a little more sandpaper. The Caps could use that vs. a very physical Bruins team, and if the series is to see its first fight Thursday, Erskine could be a likely participant.