Even on the teams with certified celestial skaters, there needs to be a place for players who are fit to take on grunt work and turn it into glamour for themselves and the group as a whole. This task chiefly falls onto third-liners or borderline top-six forwards who, whether it is through habitual hitting or more subtle grinding, can reverse the flow of the game and get in on the instantaneous attack.
The top 15 blue-collar strikers to watch for as this season goes into full swing are coming off a strong showing for their respective teams in 2011-12. In most cases, they established their precedents well before then, and in all cases, how they follow up on them amid the uniquely tight hustle through 2013 could be crucial X-factors in their clubs' fates.
Based primarily on the impression they had left by the end of last season, here are the NHL's top lunch-pail players at the start of 2013.