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Seven questions with ... Mike Knuble

by John McGourty
Mike Knuble has had to work for all the success he's had in his NHL career. A journeyman who bounced from the Detroit Red Wings to the Rangers to Boston before getting his chance playing on a line with Joe Thornton and Glen Murray with the Bruins, Knuble has blossomed into a key player for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Knuble just finished his seventh straight 20-goal season, his fourth straight with double-digit power-play goals, and his 27 goals led all players 36 and over.

Knuble is an underrated but vital component of the Flyers' success, playing in all situations and willingly taking the beating that comes with being a net-front presence. 

Between the hacks, whacks and goals, Knuble gave a few minutes to talk playoffs.

Here are seven questsions with Mike Knuble:

1. Is this team better prepared for the Stanley Cup Playoffs than last season's team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals?

Mike Knuble: "I think so, because of the playoff experience we gained last year. Granted, we played some pretty good hockey at the end of last season, because we had to. I think it carried over. Lately, we've been bouncing around and bouncing into the playoffs. We've been playing pretty well, even in our losses. As a group, I think our experience last year will definitely benefit us."

2. We were talking about your old teammate Chris Osgood's inconsistency during this regular season and someone remarked that once the playoffs start, it will be easier to steal his babies than score goals on him. Are the Flyers like that, better when the stakes are higher?

Knuble: "I think we are. I think we're the type of team that gets backed into a corner and then does a lot of things well. We'll turn into a really good team. We saw that last year and again at various points this year. When we need to win, we come through with a strong effort. You don't just turn a switch and start playing playoff hockey; it doesn't work like that. But you also can't start playing playoff hockey until the playoffs start, either. We have faith that the guys in the room will be there when the playoffs start."

3. Last season coach John Stevens had to deal with a lot of roster changes. This season, the roster hasn't undergone a lot of change but you've had important players in and out of the lineup with injuries, particularly Danny Briere. Talk about the job Stevens has done this year in maintaining season-long confidence.

Knuble: "John has been patient, even through trying times, and that's one thing that I've learned from him. If you believe in your group, you have to be patient with them. Overall, I think we've been a lot more consistent this season. We didn't bounce around in the standings and we didn't need a big push to make it into the playoffs. We had a slow start, rebounded and we've pretty much been in the same place all season. There have been roster problems for the coach and GM, but the guys that have been in the lineup every night have responded well."

4. When you play for the Philadelphia Flyers, you see the fan base's perpetual lack of faith in the goalie. Despite Marty Biron's terrific performance last season in the playoffs, we're again hearing doubts about the goaltending. Do the Flyers have the goaltending needed to win the Stanley Cup?

Knuble: "No one in this room is concerned because Marty is a calm guy and doesn't get flustered. After a game, you can't tell if he got yanked or got a shutout; there's no difference in his personality. He's not a guy who is going to flake out on us. He keeps a pretty even keel and, hopefully, he's going to win a lot of games for us in the playoffs."

5. You are the right wing on a line centered by Mike Richards with Simon Gagne on the left wing. Why is your line successful?

Knuble: "One reason is that John Stevens has kept our line together almost all season. He's kept most of the lines together. Mike Richards is a puck carrier and he plays great defensively. He plays well in all situations. Simon Gagne is a great shooter and a very underrated passer. I try to win battles in the corners for these guys and complement their offense. We've played together as a unit, five-on-five and as a power-play unit.

6. What Eastern Conference team in the playoffs scares you the most?

Knuble: "I think Boston is a good team. They've been good all year. It all comes down to goaltending in the playoffs, so you have to respect Boston and New Jersey. Boston has good personnel throughout the lineup. Jersey is Jersey, a stingy team that's always good. Carolina turned their year around in the second half and they've won 10 or 11 games in a row at home. They would be a tough opponent, too."

7. What would it mean to you to win another Stanley Cup? I know you played a little bit with the 1997 Red Wings and got your name on the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 1998, when your Red Wings beat the Washington Capitals.

Knuble: "It's every hockey player's dream and I was lucky enough, as a young player, to be with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. I probably thought then that it was going to happen again soon. Every year, when you're not in that Final and you see them lift that trophy, you're jealous. I want to be that close to the Stanley Cup and last year the Final was tangible. We were in the  semifinal (Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins) and playing in the Stanley Cup Final was something that could have happened. It was a great feeling, but it reminds you that there's a great difference between being in the semifinal and being in the Final. We couldn't quite do it but maybe we can this year. It's a great challenge."

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