WILMINGTON (CBS) – It’s one thing to boast that your team possesses the best fourth line in the NHL. It’s another to be able to prove it.
Considering that players who skate on that line typically aren’t counted on for the type of production that shows up on the score sheet, debates about the impact and value of fourth lines are mostly dominated by tastes.
Boston’s forged a love affair with the Bruins’ fourth line ever since Gregory Campbell was the “throw-in” in the Nathan Horton trade with Florida. Plugged between incumbent wings Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, Campbell gave the Bruins a fourth trio that seemingly could do a little bit of everything in just a limited amount of ice time. That trio has continued its success this season – when healthy.
Another piece of evidence Boston’s fourth line might be the best came about during the Bruins’ last two games. Paille and Campbell proved during both contests that when bumped up in the lineup they can be equally effective as when they’re skating together with Thornton.
Prior to his taking a Tyler Myers high stick to the face and leaving the game Thursday night in the loss to Buffalo, Paille proved to be a perfect solution to Boston’s third-line problems. With Chris Bourque sat out a game, Paille meshed well with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. The trio combined for several scoring chances, including Rich Peverley’s first goal of the season.
“I felt great with [Kelly] and [Peverley]. We definitely created a lot of energy,” said Paille, who returned to practice Monday with stitches near his left eye. “They’re definitely players that I can relate to in terms of how they play the style. But I remember talking throughout the game, I’ve learned kind of just to take it shift by shift and that’s how I’m going to take it from now on. I work a lot better that way.”
Campbell had to change on the fly Saturday night in Toronto. First he started out centering two new linemates – Jamie Tardif and Lane MacDermid. Then after Brad Marchand departed the lineup with an injury, Campbell had to assume the role of second-line left wing on Boston’s most important two-way line with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. Campbell saw his minutes increase about four minutes to 14:21. Neither he nor the Bruins missed a beat as they left Toronto with two points.
“I just have to make sure I’m responsible, that I’m contributing. Different positions ask for different responsibilities, so I have to complement [Bergeron] and [Seguin] in other ways than [Marchand] does,” Campbell said. “Obviously Marchand does a lot of things and I’m not trying to do his job. But a game like the other night was tailor-made to my game. It was a 1-0 game, it was basically a tight-checking game and that’s where I like to think I’m fairly good.”
The Bruins are at their best when everyone is healthy and the Paille-Campbell-Thornton line is a unit. But it’s a credit to that unit that when cast as individuals in new roles, you barely notice a drop-off in the play of other lines.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.