It’s obviously nice to see,” Jordan said.
“If you’re going to have a team that’s going to compete every night, you’re going to need all the lines goin’ and to have that depth – you look throughout the lineup and we have a lot of great players that do a lot of great things – it’s a big part of a winning team and you can see it throughout the lineup.”
Energy and skill from top to bottom
By infusing the roster with forwards Zack Boychuk, Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe, Jeremy Welsh, and defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti from the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate club, the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes added extra energy and abilities to round out the team's skill sets.
Acquiring forward Kevin Westgarth also gave Carolina some more size up front, to use when necessary.
Not only will head coach Kirk Muller be able to put together two strong scoring lines highlighting the tandems of Eric Staal with Alex Semin and Jeff Skinner with Jordan Staal, but an experienced and hardworking third line comprised of Jussi Jokinen centering Chad LaRose and Patrick Dwyer can wreak havoc offensively as much as it can defensively.
Add another line of players that Muller has available to formulate a functional fourth group, and you could see the infusion of energy and scoring skill or a physical presence and role playing capabilities.
It seems as though the possibilities are endless.
“I think it really depends on the schedule,” Muller said.
“Fourth line’s going to be really valuable not only to eat up minutes, but to be effective out there,” he continued.
“Depending upon our opponent, whether we feel it’s a fourth line that we want more size and make it more of a physical line – we have that opportunity. If it’s a line where we’ve played a lot of games and we need a fourth line to play and compete, put some production up and that - play some roles and penalty kill - that would be important some nights. You know what? Some nights we might go seven D. It all depends I think on the scheduling of the games, where we’re at with our D as well. I think you’re going to see a lot of flexibility going on with the fourth line.”
Captain and mates like it
Eric Staal knows that playing such a short regular season, using more of the team’s personnel would be advantageous in many situations.
“We’ve got so many games in a short amount of time that we need a lot of bodies and everyone’s going to have to bring something to the table,” Staal said.
“It will be up to him (Muller). As far as balancing lines and using everybody, I’m sure the more you can do that, the better it is for your group. Obviously there’s some situations you’ve gotta’ rely on some other guys. As a group, if you can get everyone involved in the game, and rolling over (four lines) and having success, it's gonna’ help you in the long run.”
Staal was quick to point out that in order for a fourth line to be used regularly, he and others on the offense will need to do their part in earning some rest for time well served on the ice.
“Yeah, if we can get a three or four goal lead, that would be fine too, and get a nice breather the rest of the way. You want to play as much as you can, but you want to be smart about the minutes - then it’s going to be up to Kirk to work his bench and get everybody involved on his side – winning games is the number one thing.”
Center Tim Brent knows what playing an effective role on a fourth line can do for a team, and what a challenge it presents for a coach to do so.
“You know, it’s a good challenge to have – to want to make him play four lines all game long and be responsible and create energy - and if you can score a few… he’s (Muller) talked about depth and how important it’s going to be.”
Green means go
In addition to the forwards, the team’s defensive corps will get the opportunity to get involved on the offense if possible.
“I think we have a lot of everything,” defenseman Tim Gleason said.
“Offensive, defensive players – different hands – right and left-handed shots - it gives us a lot of different opportunities to use them. A lot of guys have played with each other – that and experience will help us out in the long run.
Gleason alluded to the fact that Muller is not averse to seeing the defense get involved when appropriate – an evolution from last season.
“Yeah, he’s pretty much said to everybody, ‘if you can go, jump in at the right times’,” Gleason continued.
“I think that’s a little easier for guys that are offensive-minded, but a guy like myself, if I have the chance to jump in and join the rush, sure – that’s something a little bit different than last year.”
In terms of assessing the team’s readiness and focus to take on the Panthers on Saturday, Gleason summarized it succinctly:
“I think everybody is mentally ready for sure – physically as well. We’ve had a good week of practices, good tempo throughout the week. I think guys are just anxious to get at it. We know that it’s very important to get those first two points and get on a roll quickly.”
Don’t be surprised to see twelve rather than nine or ten players help to get the team’s momentum 'rolling' early in the season.