The closest we've come to a gritty winger (that can score) lately has been Brooks Laich or Chris Clark (which has been a stretch in the last two years). Knuble automatically makes those two guys better by being in the lineup, and he provides a great example for Laich and Eric Fehr to emulate in front of the net. While Knuble did have a pretty high-slot tally the other night, he also had his butt in Corey Crawford's face quite a bit (helping his case on one goal). I don't mean to overreact to a preseason win, but it's just nice to see a guy get his nose a little dirty like Knuble did, and to see guys like 21 and 17 follow suit. As you noticed from last night's showing without 22 in the lineup, the power play dipped to 0 for 5. They were 3 for 6 on Tuesday with him.
Boudreau insists on keeping the carebear (8-19-28) line together, despite the fact that he has to make a "they were too cute" comment EVERY TIME THEY PLAY TOGETHER. He knows that Knuble makes things happen in front of the net, and that should be enough to earn him a spot on Backstrom's right flank during the season. I think Knuble has workmanlike attitude towards the game, and that's one characteristic that a guy like Kozlov didn't bring to the table. Knuble is easily one of the most underrated but necessary upgrades we've made in quite some time. Let's just hope we'll get to see him hoist a cup as a result.
I know none of this is groundbreaking by any stretch, I just had to put it out there that I'm very excited about the prospects of having #22 in the lineup.