Voorhees, NJ – When your two linemates are leading the league in goals (Simon Gagne, 15) and assists (Peter Forsberg, 21), it is not surprising that Mike Knuble has flown under the radar a bit so far this season.
Knuble, in fact, is the third leading scorer on the Flyers with seven goals and seven assists for 14 points. According to Gagne, he is just as much a reason for the success the line has had as himself or Forsberg.
"He's a big guy and strong with the puck. Sometimes you don't see that from upstairs, but he's taking a lot of space away for Peter and I," said Gagne. "He puts some traffic in front of the net for us, and sometimes he's got two guys on him. That is going to open the ice up for Peter and me, so he's bringing a lot of physical aspects to that line and sometimes that's what people forget about him."
Knuble's current role is similar to the one he played while in Boston. There, he spent time with Joe Thornton and Glen Murray and racked up 51 goals and 54 assists in 157 games in the previous two seasons. It was there that Knuble proved to the rest of the league that he could contribute with the big boys, and his success with the Bruins was what landed him in Philadelphia.
"I've said it a million times before – I'm just trying to find a way to complement the way [Forsberg and Gagne] play," said Knuble. "Joe and Glen were a huge part of my career and the success that I have had. I owe 99.9 percent of it to those two. Playing with them enabled me to come here and play for Philly and obviously have the chance to play with Peter and Simon, because I've proven I have done it somewhere else."
Although there are differences between the twosomes, Ken Hitchcock had no doubt that Knuble would be able to adjust to playing on the top line.
"I think Mike is one of those guys that compliments anyone. To me, he's got the personality that he just fits in," said Hitchcock. "He has a tremendous ability to adjust his game to his linemates. With Thornton, they played a game where Joe worked the puck from behind the net and both Murray and Knuble played off the dots. Here, he's got to go in the corners and pull it off the boards a lot more. He's been able to make those adjustments.
"I just think when you're a smart, competitive player like Mike is, you're going to be able to do that stuff. Whoever we play him with, he would find a way to make it work."
Right now, though, there is certainly no reason to take him off of that top line has been so dominant.
"Hopefully, he's going to get more credit because he's helping our line to get those goals every night," said Gagne. "It's not only Peter and I; it's the three of us that makes a good line."
Flyers right wing Sami Kapanen, who has yet to play in a game this season due to torn cartilage in his right shoulder, has started taking part in full practices with the team. He is still not able to participate in drills with full contact, and is about three weeks away from getting back into game action.
"I feel pretty good. I won't have any contact for the next couple of weeks, but it's a good step for me right now," said Kapanen. "Hopefully in the next three weeks, I can get in the uniform and be able to play.
"Ten weeks is the time it takes to heal, and I'm at seven weeks [Tuesday]. We've just got to stay patient. I feel good right now and feel like I could go with the contact, but we go by the doctors' orders and I think that's the best choice."
Flyers Continue Homestand with Bruins
The Flyers will have a tough test on Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center, as they continue their five-game homestand with the Boston Bruins. Boston is currently in third place in the Northeast Division with a 7-5-4 record, and is coming off of back-to-back wins over Florida and Pittsburgh.
"The way they played the last two games has been totally dominant," said Hitchcock of Boston. "They are the biggest team we're going to play so far. Their defense is huge, and their forwards are big and competitive. They win all of the board battles. They keep everything to the outside. You don't get any second opportunities unless you are really ready to work for it. We have got ourselves a real top opponent, and I think they are starting to play like the way everybody anticipated."
After dropping the season opener, the Flyers have reeled off six straight wins on home ice. Robert Esche, who has won his last four starts, will be in net on Tuesday.