In front of around 4500 fans, HSV were the dominant side, but failed to make the most of their limited first-half opportunities at the Osnatel Arena.
"You could see that we had lots of players out there who were lacking confidence after long injury layoffs," explained the 48-year-old after the stalemate. Knäbel handed offensive trio Pierre-Michel Lasogga, Maximilian Beister and Lewis Holtby an opportunity from the start in Lower Saxony. Lasogga and Holtby were replaced by Nicolai Müller and Ahmet Arslan in the second period, but Beister played the full 90 minutes.
With Valon Behrami, Johan Djourou, Ivica Olic, Mohamed Gouaida, Julian Green and Zoltan Stieber on international duty and Heiko Westermann, Rafael van der Vaart, Marcell Jansen, Slobodan Rajkovic and Marcelo Diaz all unavailable through injury, Knäbel travelled south without 11 members of his first-team squad. Rene Adler played the first half in goal, before Jaroslav Drobny was given a run-out in the second period.
Knäbel took over the reins at 16th-placed Hamburg on Monday after Josef Zinnbauer was relieved of his duties as head coach with eight games of the league campaign left to play. He takes his Bundesliga bow away to Bayer 04 Leverkusen on 4 April.