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The Inevitable Question: What Happens To The Fourth Line If Wolski Returns?

When news broke of the new lines, specifically with Wojtek Wolski out with an injury, and Erik Christensen centering Mike Rupp and Mats Zuccarello, the outside question was about what would happen should Wolski return. Wolski won’t be out forever, and he is certainly an upgrade over Christensen, but they do not play the same position. In fact, none on that fourth line are true centers, only Rupp has played the position to any success.

For the sake of this post, let’s hope that the top three lines click and don’t need any tinkering. Now that that’s out of the way, we can look at the four players who would compete for the three spots in the lineup, of which three are considered to be wingers. The one center –Christensen– is likely to be the one scratched should Wolski return to the lineup. This is what we would call an interesting situation.

Last season, Christensen won 49.4% of his face offs (over 600 taken). That’s not all that great, and certainly not a reason to keep him in the lineup. As for Rupp, he won 50.6% of his face offs, but only took 162 (82 won) last year. His past years with the Penguins and Devils don’t help much either, as his numbers fluctuated from poor (44%) to decent (51%), but he never took more than 160 in a season. It’s tough to say how well he would do with full time center duties, but he’s an under 50% career in the circle.

In a pinch, Rupp could fake it as a center, but Christensen is really the only true center among those four. It’s interesting to note that Kris Newbury is pretty good with face offs (60% last year, small sample size), and he would likely be the first call up for injury.

There is always going to be the talk of trades, but it’s too early in the season for that. Plus, you never know what happens with injuries. Ryan Callahan is good for an injury a season with the way he plays, so having bodies around isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Generally, someone plays their way out of the lineup, so this “problem” may solve itself in time.

8 Responses to “The Inevitable Question: What Happens To The Fourth Line If Wolski Returns?”

  1. Rickyrants13 says:

    WW will move up and the lines will go back to what they should be. That being said Boyle goes back to 4th line center.

  2. Matt J says:

    We have 3 good lines. Just the 4th line needs some work. But how many draws do you expect Rupp to take a game if he’s going to play 10-12 minutes a night? 3 or 4 draws? Shouldn’t be enough to be a game changer.

    JT Miller could center the 4th line next year. I think we can see him pending on how well he does this year. I’m imagining him with Hagelin and Thomas flying up and down the ice.

    Also, Kreider looked amazing last night in the loss to Denver. First game I watched Kreider play and I must say I was very impressed with his speed, puck control, vision and play along the boards. Those are about all the things you need in the NHL right?

  3. The Suit says:

    Tough call. Guess you have to ask yourself, which three players do you want playing 10 not so critical minutes a game?

    My answer would be EC, Rupp, and WW when he comes back, or against more skilled teams, bench Rupp, and have EC, WW, and Zukes as a tertiary scoring line, with the Boyle line playing “4th line” duties.

    • Leatherneckinlv says:

      Boyle 4th line?…really? I guess he needs to be demoted for his hard work and last years production…yeah that seems so right…not

  4. jerry says:

    CAPGEEK.COM CAP CALCULATOR
    i posted this once before but for those that missed it.i would love this lineup.gives us a great fourth line for grinding.clears alot of cap space.keep christensen as a spare.i liked both newbury and mitchell in preseason.zucs already down and newburys up so one top go.try to trade wolski.ill post this a few times so everyone can have a take on it.
    FORWARDS
    Derek Stepan ($0.875m) / Brad Richards ($6.666m) / Marian Gaborik ($7.500m)
    Brandon Dubinsky ($4.200m) / Artem Anisimov ($1.875m) / Ryan Callahan ($4.275m)
    Ruslan Fedotenko ($1.400m) / Brian Boyle ($1.700m) / Brandon Prust ($0.800m)
    Michael Rupp ($1.500m) / Kris Newbury ($0.512m) / John Mitchell ($0.650m)

    DEFENSEMEN
    Marc Staal ($3.975m) / Daniel Girardi ($3.325m)
    Tim Erixon ($1.750m) / Ryan McDonagh ($1.300m)
    Mike Sauer ($1.250m) / Michael Del Zotto ($1.087m)
    Steve Eminger ($0.800m)

    GOALTENDERS
    Henrik Lundqvist ($6.875m) / Martin Biron ($0.875m)

    BUYOUTS: Chris Drury ($1.666m)

    CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
    (these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion)
    SALARY CAP: $64,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $54,858,334; BONUSES: $1,275,000
    CAP SPACE (21-man roster): $9,441,666