CHICAGO – Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien wasn’t going to tip his hand after the morning skate ahead of Game 5 about whether or not to replace Kaspars Daugavins with Carl Soderberg on the fourth line. Soderberg took rushes on Friday, but the two split time on the fourth line on Saturday morning.
The injury to Gregory Campbell in the Eastern Conference Final forced Julien to change up the “Merlot Line” that had been so effective. Daniel Paille is now clicking on the third line with Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly. Thornton has been with Rich Peverley and Daugavins since.
Julien hasn’t been able to recapture the success that Campbell, Paille and Thornton found together with his new fourth line. At times it’s struggled, most notable in Game 1 when Daugavins had the game on his stick in the third overtime, but failed to capitalize on the opportunity.
Julien has stuck with Daugavins on the fourth line because of his experience, but his ice time has slowly dwindled in the Cup Final. Rookie Carl Soderberg hasn’t played in the playoffs, but is on the verge of making his debut.
“I have to look at whether I feel comfortable staying with Daugavins… right now it’s been between Soderberg and Daugavins,” said Julien. “But they’re two different players. Size-wise they’re different. One’s real gritty along the walls and the other one’s probably more of a playmaker.”
“There’s a difference there. That’s where I have to make a decision what I feel I may need for tonight.”
Fourth lines don't get the bulk of the minutes, especially at this point of the season, but their limited time on ice has provided big moments in the playoffs. Both coaches realize how important the contributions of their bottom lines are.
"The top lines, whether they neutralize one another, the production might come from those second, third and fourth lines that somebody jumps up, scores a big goal," said Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville.
"I think when you look at your teams and you hear coaches in an organization talk about depth, that's what they mean," said Julien.
"You don't want to just rely on two, three guys because if you do, you're not going to last very long in the playoffs."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy