The longer a team stays in the playoffs, the shorter its bench tends to get.
Teams with big scoring lines try to get them as much playing time as possible.Sounds logical, but it's a theory the New Jersey Devils probably won't practice in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference final against the Philadelphia Flyers, which opens Saturday.
Part of that is because Devils coach Jacques Lemaire really doesn't have either a Cam Neely, Jaromir Jagr or Eric Lindros to step on the ice every second or third shift.
The other part is because the Devils' play doesn't slip with any of their lines, especially their fourth group, the "Crash Line."
Center Bobby Holik and wings Randy McKay and Mike Peluso usually don't play more than 8-to-12 minutes a game but they've come up big in the playoffs.
McKay got the game-winner in overtime in Game 4 against the Bruins and Holik and McKay both scored in Game 3 of the semifinals with Pittsburgh when New Jersey took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Holik also got a big momentum-changing goal in the final game against Pittsburgh when the Penguins had control in Game 5.
While Peluso hasn't scored, his physical play caused a turnover by Boston defenseman Jon Rohloff on McKay's overtime winner in a 1-0 contest.
"I think we play the same way every night," said Holik, who has also hit a couple of posts. "But when the other lines play well, we don't get as much attention because someone else is scoring. I think we do the same every night. Sometimes it shows more, and sometimes it doesn't."
However, Holik said that ability to blend in with the Devils' other lines might be the key to the team's success.
"Other teams are looking at the videotape and saying we're going to check (Neal) Broten's line," Holik said Friday before practice. "They can check Broten's line and then the fourth line - us - will come up with the big night. Then they say: `What are we going to do next, check `The Crash Line? No!' Every night it's somebody else coming up with the big night."
Lemaire has done an excellent job of using all his lines in the playoffs, and that's left the Devils strong late in the game. They have outscored opponents 13-5 in the third period in the playoffs and won both their overtime games.
"I think you have to get the fourth line in at different times in the game just to know they are capable and just to get the ice time," Peluso said. "The only frustrating thing is you want to get out and you have all this pent-up energy."
Lemaire has said two of his lines will share the duty of working against Lindros and Flyers linemates John LeClair and Mikael Renberg. Centers Bobby Carpenter and Broten are expected to oppose Lindros.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Holik said he wouldn't mind a piece of Lindros, who at 6-4 and 229 is a lot bigger than either Carpenter or Broten.
"I don't know if they'll ask me, but I'm ready for it or anything," Holik said. "That is a challenge. If they say you do it, I'm more than happy. If he (Lemaire) doesn't, I'm not going to hang my head."
Holik and the Crash Line will just do what they are told.
"I'm never satisfied even if we have a great game," Holik said. "I want to do it again. One game doesn't make a season. I want to do it again."
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