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Canes Pleased with New-Look Fourth Line

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
They weren’t blockbusters by any means, but a few recent roster moves by the Hurricanes have given the team a different look at the forward position.

Paul Branecky
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The acquisitions of Troy Bodie and Ryan Carter from Anaheim though a waiver claim and a trade, respectively, have given the team a more intimidating presence on the fourth line along with Jiri Tlusty. In the recent past, the Hurricanes have used a mixture of players who weren’t necessarily cut out for that role but didn’t score enough to deserve a more prominent spot in the lineup, making the new group a departure to the more traditional.

So far, it seems to be paying off.

“I like what they do,” said coach Paul Maurice. “I still think that there’s more to their game with being able to open up, and we encourage them to try things and do things. I think these guys, if they get a little bit of confidence here, can get on a little bit of a roll.”

Bodie, the biggest body on the team at 6-foot-4 and 213 pounds, is the most physical of the group. Although he had a very good showing in his first and only fight as a Hurricane against Washington’s Matt Bradley on Nov. 24, he isn’t a pure enforcer by any means.

“The biggest part of my game is getting in on the forecheck,” he said. “I get in there, take the body and give it to a guy like Jiri who can do more with it than I can. That’s the role of a big man, and that’s what I do.”

Having been described by General Manager Jim Rutherford as a player who’s “willing” to drop the gloves, Bodie can be counted on to take some pressure off defensemen Tim Gleason and Jay Harrison should that specific need arise.

“There are times you go out there and you know you have to and you may not want to, but you do it anyways,” he said. “Then there are times when you really want to and you go looking for it.”

As for his debut tussle in a Carolina sweater?

“There wasn’t pressure on me to go and do it, but being new to the team, I wanted to prove myself,” he said.

Bodie described Carter, a one-time linemate with the Ducks, as a player who a mixture of skill and grit. Carter checks in at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, but has also been counted upon to win faceoffs and kill penalties. Since the trade, he’s won a team-leading 56.7 percent of his draws and is among the team’s leaders in shorthanded time on ice, taking some pressure off Eric Staal in the process.

If those two are natural fourth-liners – players who still play specific roles despite their place in the offensive pecking order – Tlusty, a former-first round pick, is less so. As a responsible defensive forward, he’s a better fit than the likes of Patrick O’Sullivan in that spot but has the potential for a more prominent role.

In order to earn another opportunity in the top nine, Maurice said he’d like to see Tlusty emulate the style of his new linemates.

“I think what he needs to go is get into the dark areas faster, harder and get a little bit more bumping and grinding in his game and get into the fight a little more,” said Maurice, who coached Tlusty when he was an 19-year-old rookie in Toronto. “He’s got the skills, had them in junior and I know he can put the puck in the net, but he’s not going to get them from the outside.”

While the long-term goal is to see Tlusty become more of an offensive threat, for now he’s a good complement to Bodie and Carter as all three bring something unique to the table.

“It’s nice to have a guy like Jiri with us because he’s really skilled, and I can just run in there and get pucks to him,” said Bodie.

The trio hasn’t found the score sheet as of yet, although they’ve come close. Bodie in particular has made some offensive plays in and around the opposition’s net, with Maurice praising the winger’s ability to create traffic and confusion in that area.

Any offense they might provide would be icing on the cake as they wonted be counted on in that regard, but they won’t be discouraged either.

“We’re telling them to skate and try to make plays,” said Maurice. “They don’t get pulled off the ice when the match-up isn’t exactly right.

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