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BOSTON (CBS) – Someone who hasn’t played a Stanley Cup Playoff game in a long time, or ever, is going to enter the Bruins’ lineup Friday for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals because of the season-ending injury to Gregory Campbell.
But whether Jay Pandolfo, Kaspars Daugavins or someone else finally gets a game sweater when the Bruins go for the sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins, he won’t be the one replacing Campbell, nor should he be. The player that will make the 1-for-1 swap of space in the lineup with Campbell will probably skate on the wing and just be asked to forecheck well, manage the puck and add a little physicality to try to make up for Campbell’s absence.
Campbell’s injury probably means the splitting of Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley as linemates and the shift of Peverley from wing to his natural position of center. And this change could be coming at just the right time for Peverley.
Through 14 games, Peverley has produced just one point, a goal, in these playoffs. That’s right, the Rich Peverley who the Bruins pay like a catalyst ($3.25 million per season) has been very much a passenger in the playoffs. He’s still a solid penalty killer, efficient faceoff competitor and sound defensive player. The Bruins need something more, along the line of the guy who scored 12 points during the 2011 Cup championship run.
Now most times when a player is “demoted” to the fourth line, it means they’re being asked to do less because they were ineffective. In the Bruins’ world, where the fourth line gets rolled through most of the game and double-digit goal-scorers often reside, it could be argued that your production should go up if you’re worth a spot on an NHL roster. After all, they’re called the “Merlot Line” because they’re not a fourth line. In terms of ice minutes and production, they’re at worst a third line. Only in salary and offensive reputation do they come up fourth on the Bruins’ realistic depth chart.
Peverley will be back at his preferred position and will be guaranteed to have two rabid forecheckers, maybe even Campbell’s usual wings Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, at his side. Even if one of the longtime scratches is on one of his wings, this is a chance to make one of the Bruins’ four lines a “Peverley Line” in more than just name. He can put his mark on this team and this series.
We know Julien wants to roll four lines and the Bruins are at the best when there’s a quartet of trios worthy of regular shifts. With Peverley’s pedigree, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to drive a line that Julien can rely on in all situations.
A couple weeks ago, Peverley told me he was shooting pucks into an open net after practice because one of his old college coaches told him that was a way to boost confidence. The production hasn’t followed his attempt at a psychological fix. Maybe a change of line and a little change of role will do the trick.
The Bruins need it to do the trick to get past the Penguins and then whoever they might see in the Stanley Cup Final. Rich Peverley needs to do the trick.
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.