Devils' fourth line isn't your typical fourth line

Friday, 05.25.2012 / 1:00 PM | Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils' fourth line has become a story in the Eastern Conference Finals for how well it has played and how much it has produced. Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier have combined for six points, including two goals in Game 5.

The notoriety is well deserved, but it's not something the so-called fourth-liners are all that caught up in.

"Hopefully what people are noticing is we're winning games and we're helping the team because that's really what it's about," Carter told NHL.com. "It's good. It's notoriety and it's positive for us as a group and us as a team. We're enjoying that."

Carter, though, said he's not so sure his group should be referred to as a fourth line. Sure, they are coach Peter DeBoer's fourth option and they get the least amount of ice time, but they don't play like your typical fourth line.

Instead of just going on the ice for an odd shift here and there to maybe make a few big hits and eat up some minutes to keep the top nine forwards rested, DeBoer has been using his fourth line to generate offense through the forecheck. Save for the skill and the ice time, the Devils' fourth line plays no different than the other three lines.

"I don't really know that we really reflect on how we look at ourselves, if it's a first line, fourth line, how we do it," Carter said. "We look at it as a shift-by-shift basis and how we play our game."

Carter, though, said the mindset of the fourth-liners has changed as the confidence DeBoer has shown in them has grown.

"We're not worried about who we are out there playing against or who we're not out there playing against," Carter said. "We just go out there and do our thing and that's probably why we're having success. Right now it's on us to go out there and just play our game."

A big key to how they play is Gionta, the 5-foot-7, 185-pound center who did not play in the regular season until the regular-season finale April 7, when he scored the game-winning goal. Gionta has three goals and three assists in 17 playoff games.

"He really opens the ice up for all of us," Carter said. "He's fast at both ends of the ice, so he creates pressure up the ice and if we turn it over in the offensive zone somehow, even if we're ahead of him, he seems to be the first one back and forcing them to make a dump or a play. It all sets up for Marty (Brodeur) to get it, and we're going back in the other direction. His speed is huge for us both ways."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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