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Fourth Line Firepower

by Tony Jovenitti / Pittsburgh Penguins
To call the Penguins’ fourth line experienced is like calling Mario Lemieux a good hockey player.

Craig Adams has two Stanley Cup rings, Mike Rupp has one and Arron Asham made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final last year with Philadelphia.

Together, those three comprise a Penguins’ fourth line that has contributed significantly during the first two games of the first-round matchup with Tampa Bay.

“It’s been the best two games from them in some time,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “They’ve really been a factor in the game, adding energy, physicality.”

Rupp grinded his way all the way to the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in Game 7 of the finals in 2003 – against none other than Bylsma’s Might Ducks of Anaheim. So Rupp understands just how influential a fourth line can be in a series.

“There’s times when the game plan of another team is to strategically try to shut down or contain certain lines,” Rupp said. “With that being done, you need other guys to step up. The three of us have been in those positions before and we’ve been able to come through.”

Adams helped Carolina win the Cup in 2006 before scoring three crucial goals for the Penguins during Pittsburgh’s championship run in 2009.

In Game 2 on Friday against the Lightning, Adams pounced on a loose puck and punched it in the net to give the Penguins’ offense some life after Tampa Bay took a 3-0 lead.

“We’re not going to score every game,” Adams said. “But if we can get one here and there that can win us a game or change momentum of a game, then we’re doing our job.”

The playoffs are about which team can outlast the other, and the bottom six forwards are crucial to that mentality.

“As the fourth line, our job is to go out there and bring some energy and go play a solid two-way game,” Asham said. “It’s always nice to have your fourth line score a couple goals here and there. We’ve been fortunate enough to have two in the last couple games.”

Last year, Asham helped Philadelphia come within two wins of a championship with four goals and seven points in the postseason. In the Penguins’ 3-0 win in Game 1, Asham hustled his way to a huge goal that gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead and all the momentum.

All three players have a pedigree of stepping up in the playoffs, but they try not to change anything in the way they play the game.

“You just go out there and give it your all,” Asham said. “It seems like come playoff time, pucks bounce our way a little bit more. So our line seems to get some greasy ones like last game. It was just a forecheck with a loose puck in front of the net, and ‘Adsy’ jammed it in. So we just need to keep going that way.”

“They’ve been a big factor for us,” Bylsma said.

During the regular season, Adams is more known for his penalty killing abilities while Rupp and Asham are more known for their physical presence. But come playoff time, they’re excited to step up their offense and score big goals.

“My job doesn’t change, I just do certain little things that I try to do every game,” Adams said. “It’s just more fun this time of year.”
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