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NHL Power Rankings: The Best and Worst 4th Lines in Hockey

Jeff LangridgeCorrespondent IIIFebruary 8, 2012

NHL Power Rankings: The Best and Worst 4th Lines in Hockey

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    When you think of a team's best players, your first thought is not likely to be of Shawn Thornton or Justin Abdelkader. While these players play on their team's fourth lines, they and their linemates are very important to their team's success.

    At any moment, the fourth line can change the momentum of a game at any moment. It could be a big hit, a fight or even, on the odd occasion, a goal. They may not be the most glorified members of the team, but they are important nonetheless.

    From 30th to first, here are the best and worst fourth lines in hockey.

30. New York Islanders

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    Left Wing: Tim Wallace

    Center: Jay Pandolfo

    Right Wing: Nino Niederreiter

    Combined Points: 3

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 22

    Yeah, each of these players has one point. Pandolfo has value as he provides veteran leadership, so he's off the hook.

    Wallace has yet to score a goal in his career, and Niederreiter is perhaps the biggest disappointment. As the fifth overall draft pick in 2010, one point is just not good enough.

29. Minnesota Wild

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    Left Wing: Brad Staubitz

    Center: Warren Peters

    Right Wing: Jed Ortmeyer

    Combined Points: 6

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 93

    The Minnesota Wild employ a lot of players that most hockey fans will ask who they are when they first hear their names and, with the exception of Brad Staubitz, their fourth line is comprised of them.

28. Winnipeg Jets

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    Left Wing: Antti Miettinen

    Center: Aaron Gagnon

    Right Wing: Chris Thorburn

    Combined Points: 9

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 70

    This fourth line is Chris Thorburn. He provides all of the penalty minutes and all but three of the points. Miettinen and Gagnon need to pick it up.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Left Wing: JT Wyman

    Center: Brett Connolly

    Right Wing: Matt Gilroy

    Combined Points: 26

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 30

    The Tampa Bay Lightning might have one of the best first lines in hockey, but it is well known that their depth is not. While Brett Connolly will eventually move up in the organization, for now they are one of the reasons that Tampa Bay is where they are in the standings.

26. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Left Wing: Ryan Russell

    Center: Derek MacKenzie

    Right Wing: Jared Boll

    Combined Points: 14

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 117

    This is a line where everyone knows when they're on the ice, but only because of Jared Boll. This line is only meant to intimidate the other team.

25. Calgary Flames

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    Left Wing: Tom Kostopoulos

    Center: Matt Stajan

    Right Wing: Tim Jackman

    Combined Points: 21

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 135

    The fact that Matt Stajan is making a whole lot more money than most second-liners irks a lot of people, but the line does bring energy the Flames are going to need if they want any chance to make the playoffs.

24. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Left Wing: Anthony Stewart

    Center: Tim Brent

    Right Wing: Riley Nash

    Combined Points: 30

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 48

    The Carolina Hurricanes would rank much higher on this list if it weren't for Chad Larose being out with the flu. Anthony Stewart has disappointed a lot of people with his performance this year, but I watched Tim Brent play a lot last season and he is a quality fourth-liner. When Larose returns, the Hurricanes will be better

23. Colorado Avalanche

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    Left Wing: Cody McLeod

    Center: David Van der Gulik

    Right Wing: Chuck Kobasew

    Combined Points: 22

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 155

    With the injury to Matt Duchene, Van der Gulik gets the opportunity to center the fourth line. McLeod has supplied 120 of the team's 155 penalty minutes.

22. Montreal Canadiens

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    Left Wing: Chris Campoli

    Center: Louis Leblanc

    Right Wing: Mike Blunden

    Combined Points: 13

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 19

    The Montreal Canadiens have been ravaged by injuries and it is playing havoc with the lines right now, resulting in a low ranking.

21. San Jose Sharks

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    Left Wing: Brad Winchester

    Center: John McCarthy

    Right Wing: Benn Ferriero

    Combined Points: 16

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 85

    San Jose is one of those teams that depends heavily on its top two lines, so the bottom two don't get as much ice time. Ferriero is an up-and-coming player who should move up in the next few seasons and Winchester is the muscle of the team, contributing 71 of the line's 85 penalty minutes.

20. New Jersey Devils

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    Left Wing: Eric Boulton

    Center: Jacob Josefson

    Right Wing: Brad Mills

    Combined Points: 3

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 103

    Well, this fourth line is definitely not on the ice to put the puck in the net. In another case of a player biding his time before he moves up the roster, Josefson will need to up his offense if he ever hopes to.

19. Buffalo Sabres

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    Left Wing: Cody McCormick

    Center: Luke Adam

    Right Wing: Matt Ellis

    Combined Points: 28

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 81

    Quite simply, the Buffalo Sabres have been a huge disappointment as a team and that extends to the fourth line. Only Adam has had any type of success, his naming to the All-Star Game as evidence.

18. Ottawa Senators

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    Left Wing: Colin Greening

    Center: Zenon Konopka

    Right Wing: Chris Neil

    Combined Points: 50

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 297

    The Ottawa Senators were expected to be the worst team in the Eastern Conference this season, but thanks to overachieving by everyone on the roster, it has led them to be a playoff team at this point of the season. Their fourth line has been a big part of their success, as Greening has been a pleasant surprise as a rookie, and Neil and Knonopka provide plenty of toughness to go around.

17. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Left Wing: Gilbert Brule

    Center: Kyle Chipchura

    Right Wing: Taylor Pyatt 

    Combined Points: 31

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 145

    Phoenix might have some of the most underestimated players on its fourth line. They just picked up Gilbert Brule, who has five points in 11 games as a Coyote, Kyle Chipchura, captain of the 2006 gold medal-winning Canadian World Junior team, and Taylor Pyatt, who continues to be valuable depth forward for anyone he plays for.

16. Los Angeles Kings

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    Left Wing: Trent Hunter

    Center: Colin Fraser

    Right Wing: Kevin Westgarth

    Combined Points: 13

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 85

    The Los Angeles Kings struggled to begin the season and now are finally back in a playoff position. However, as the rest of the team has risen to the occasion, the fourth line has faltered, only registering two points and no penalty minutes in the past five games.

15. Anaheim Ducks

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    Left Wing: Niklas Hagman

    Center: Rod Pelley

    Right Wing: George Parros

    Combined Points: 21

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 66

    Anaheim squeaks into the top half of this list for two reasons: One, Parros is always going to be force to be reckoned with and two, Hagman has been overachieving since he was picked up on waivers.

14. St. Louis Blues

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    Left Wing: B.J. Crombeen

    Center: Scot Nichol

    Right Wing: Ryan Reaves

    Combined Points: 7

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 147

    The St. Louis Blues are one of the surprise teams of this season, sitting fourth in the Western Conference. While they may not be the first players you think of when you're thinking of the St. Louis Blues, for a team like the Blues to be having this much success, everyone has to be doing something right.

13. Nashville Predators

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    Left Wing: Matt Halischuk

    Center: Craig Smith

    Right Wing: Brian McGrattan

    Combined Points: 52

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 114

    The Nashville Predators are one of those teams that you look at and ask, "How do they do it?" They do it because of the strategy employed by Barry Trotz who gets everyone to buy into his system and overachieve. That is exactly the case with the fourth line, no matter who is playing on it.

12. Dallas Stars

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    Left Wing: Tom Wandell

    Center: Jake Dowell

    Right Wing: Adam Burish

    Combined Points: 26

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 103

    The Dallas Stars are a team that has a lot of depth in the bottom six so the fourth line can be different on any given night, depending on the opponent. Even considering that fact, the Stars' talent on the fourth line is underrated and they should be this high.

11. Edmonton Oilers

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    Left Wing: Lennart Petrell

    Center: Anton Lander

    Right Wing: Ben Eager

    Combined Points: 18

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 127

    The Edmonton Oilers' young blood doesn't only pertain to players named Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. Their fourth line is pretty young as well. Petrell and Eager are 27 and 28, respectively, but Lander is just 20 years old. They might not put points on the board, but these guys are providing the sandpaper that will be needed to protect their superstars.

10. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Left Wing: Richard Park

    Center: Joe Vitale

    Right Wing: Craig Adams

    Combined Points: 29

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 64

    A team with a very experienced fourth line can do very well in the playoffs. It's proven in Pittsburgh, with Adams being around since the Penguins won the Cup and Park has been playing in the NHL for 13 seasons now. The young Vitale provides the toughness they need, and when Sidney Crosby returns, Vitale should be the guy that crosses path with anyone that tries to take on Crosby.

9. Washington Capitals

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    Left Wing: Joel Ward

    Center: Mathieu Perreault

    Right Wing: Keith Aucoin

    Combined Points: 31

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 34

    Even though Aucoin just got called and has only played in three games, these three make a very strong two-way line. If Aucoin starts producing at half the pace he performed at in the AHL, the Caps might overtake the Florida Panthers permanently.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Left Wing: Mike Brown

    Center: David Steckel

    Right Wing: Colby Armstrong

    Combined Points: 12

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 50

    While not high in points or penalty minutes, the Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the best all-around fourth lines. You have the faceoff specialist in Steckel, a player who's not afraid to drop the gloves when he needs to in Brown and, when he's not injured, an energy forward in Armstrong. The fact that most of their points are goals is a plus.

7. Florida Panthers

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    Left Wing: Matt Bradley

    Center: John Madden

    Right Wing: Krys Barch

    Combined Points: 10

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 115

    The Florida Panthers have had a surprising season. They had a comfortable lead in the Southeast Division for most of the season and they are now fighting for it with the Washington Capitals. They brought in John Madden just about a month ago to help with the playoff push and his veteran leadership will make the team a lot stronger.

6. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Left Wing: Harry Zolnierczyk

    Center: Sean Couturier

    Right Wing: Tom Sestito

    Combined Points: 26

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 94

    You would expect the fourth line of the Philadelphia Flyers to have a much higher penalty minute total but that is definitely not the case. Of course, the fact that Couturier is biding his time on the fourth line before he moves up in the coming years. He definitely doesn't belong there.

5. Vancouver Canucks

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    Left Wing: Manny Malholtra

    Center: Maxim Lapierre

    Right Wing: Dale Weise

    Combined Points: 29

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 180

    The grit of the Vancouver Canucks is supplied by this line. Lapierre is one of the better agitators in the NHL, and Weise isn't a slouch either. Malholtra is a leader on the team and is one of the league's best faceoff men.

4. New York Rangers

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    Left Wing: Michael Rupp

    Center: Brandon Dubinsky

    Right Wing: John Mitchell

    Combined Points: 37

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 141

    They are high on the list because of Dubinsky being in John Tortorella's doghouse and demoted to the fourth line. Rupp and Mitchell are typical fourth-liners, but with Dubinsky they have the potential to put up a few points.

3. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Left Wing: Jamal Mayers

    Center: Brendan Morrison

    Right Wing: Andrew Brunette 

    Combined Points: 41

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 70

    The perfect example of a veteran fourth line, this line is going to be very important if the Hawks want to make a push far into the playoffs. The addition of Morrison, while not a big move, could be one of those moves that pushes a team farther than they would have gone had they not traded for him.

2. Detroit Red Wings

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    Left Wing: Cory Emmerton

    Center: Justin Abdelkader

    Right Wing: Tomas Holmstrom

    Combined Points: 39

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 63

    Is it any surprise that the Detroit Red Wings rank highly on the list? The Red Wings are experts at developing talent and it doesn't just go to the top lines. Two young players in Emmerton and Abdelkader are being mentored by Holmstrom and when he retires, you can bet they will be ready.

1. Boston Bruins

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    Left Wing: Daniel Paille

    Center: Gregory Campbell

    Right Wing: Shawn Thornton

    Combined Points: 36

    Combined Penalty Minutes: 158

    Without a doubt, the Boston Bruins have the best line in the NHL. They embody what the Bruins are: grit and toughness. It doesn't hurt that they put up points as well.

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