BOSTON -- On most hockey teams, the role of fourth-line center is rarely a source of great debate.
But the way the Boston Bruins are built and the way they play the game makes them unlike most hockey teams.
They are a team built on balance and depth, where the role of top-line scorer is no more or less important than a fourth-line grinder or enforcer.
Many teams say that is the case, but few actually put it in practice the way the Bruins do.
So when Gregory Campbell fractured his right fibula in the second period of Wednesday night's 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, it created a hole far larger than it might have on a typical hockey team losing its fourth-line center.
That hole in the lineup will be filled by Kaspars Daugavins, coach Claude Julien confirmed Friday morning ahead of Game 4 of the conference final at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). But filling Campbell's role on the team will be done by committee.
"You don't replace a guy like Gregory Campbell by putting another guy in there," Julien said Friday morning. "He brings a lot. When you lose a guy like him, you realize the hole that he's left.”
Daugavins has not played since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 1. Now he steps into a game when the Bruins can advance to the Stanley Cup Final with a victory.
"I'm so excited," Daugavins said. "It's hard to watch games from up top; it's easier to play than watch. I've been waiting for this moment all playoffs, pretty much, and this is what I want to do. I want to be on the ice and help the team."
Daugavins does not appear to be stepping directly into Campbell's spot on the team, according to the lines used by Julien at Friday's morning skate.
Daugavins was lined up on the left wing of the third line opposite Tyler Seguin, with Rich Peverley sliding over from his usual spot at left wing to play center. Chris Kelly, who has centered Boston's third line for the entire postseason, was moved down to fill Campbell's role as center of the fourth line with Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille on the wings.
By moving veteran Kelly into Campbell's spot, made possible by Peverley's ability to play center and his strength in the faceoff circle, Julien is able to maintain the ability to roll all four forward lines, a major part of his team's identity and strength.
"I think that's been the goal for us all playoffs and it shouldn't change now," Paille said. "Hopefully we can get all four lines rolling again and continue to play like we have been."
Campbell, Thornton and Paille are dubbed the "Merlot Line" for the color of their practice jerseys, but the fact they even have a nickname demonstrates the importance and consistency of the unit. Much like Boston's top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, the "Merlot Line" has gone essentially unchanged since the team's 2011 Stanley Cup run.
"Those guys [Campbell, Thornton and Paille] have played extremely well. Whoever plays with them has to know their strengths, and work with their strengths and go out there and make it as easy a change as possible," Kelly said. "They've had [Campbell] for so long, whoever goes out there with them needs to know that."
The loss of Campbell on the penalty kill -- where he was Julien's most-used forward in the playoffs -- will be mitigated by Daugavins, who has played in that situation in the past and has the skills to be successful there.
"[Daugavins] skates extremely well, gets on the forecheck, makes smart plays, plays all three zones and he's got pretty good hands," Kelly said. "He thinks the game well and knows where to be."
In the faceoff circle, where Campbell had a 50.5 percent success rate in the playoffs, the Bruins don't lose anything by having Peverley move to his natural center position. Peverley is winning faceoffs at a rate of 65.2 percent in the playoffs, while Kelly is at 61.1 percent.
So though Daugavins is the name that will be written in the lineup, he's not the only player who will be called upon to replace what the Bruins lost in Campbell.
That, in a nutshell, is what these Bruins are all about.
"That's the way I feel a team should be," Julien said. "Nobody should be on a pedestal. There's a lot of guys in there that you could easily put on a pedestal. Not only are they not put on a pedestal, they don't want to be put on a pedestal. I think we appreciate the fact that everybody's important."
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