In Game 3 against Pittsburgh, when Gregory Campbell hit the deck to block Evgeni Malkin’s slap shot, the Bruins lost far more than their fourth-line center. Campbell’s postseason departure because of a broken right leg turned the Bruins’ bottom two lines upside down.
There was arguably no better fourth line in the NHL than Campbell between Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. The No. 3 line of Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly, and Tyler Seguin achieved little offensively, but could be trusted defensively and on faceoffs.
Now, in the most critical games of 2013, the Bruins don’t know what kind of identity their third and fourth lines will bring against Chicago. They aren’t even sure how their bottom-six forwards will line up.
On Tuesday at TD Garden, Kaspars Daugavins skated alongside Peverley and Seguin for the second straight practice. Paille, Kelly, and Thornton also practiced together for the second straight day.
Come Wednesday, there’s a good chance those lines will not look the same throughout Game 1. In Game 4 against Pittsburgh, Claude Julien jumbled his bottom-six forwards depending on the situation.
“We mix and match,” the Bruins coach said. “As you saw, it wasn’t always that same line. I was able to move players from third to fourth, depending if it was at the end of a penalty kill, after a power play, and if we needed to put some guys together depending on who they put on. Sometimes it was putting three experienced guys out there against their top line. That’s going to continue to happen.”
Kelly doesn’t have a postseason point. Peverley has one goal. Seguin has a goal and three assists.
Yet the Bruins survived the first three rounds, partly because of the offensive punch of Paille, Campbell, and Thornton. The fourth line roared against the Rangers.
It’s unlikely the Bruins can dispatch the Blackhawks with only two lines of offensive presence. Chicago rolls four lines. Every forward is averaging 10 or more minutes of ice time per game. Third-line right wing Michael Frolik has three goals and three assists. Fourth-line center Andrew Shaw has four goals and three assists.
The Bruins’ foot soldiers will have to answer.
“You want to be out there. You want to contribute,” Thornton said. “I haven’t watched a lot of their games yet. I haven’t seen ice time on their side. I go on what I’m told. But if they’re rolling and we’re rolling, our line’s got to be at top of our game to try and make an impact while we’re out there.”
The Daugavins-Peverley-Seguin line should be the more offensive-minded of the two trios. In Game 4 against Pittsburgh, Daugavins nailed a post. Seguin leads the team with 54 shots.
But Seguin could also find himself with Kelly and Paille. That line started Game 4 against Brenden Morrow, Brandon Sutter, and Jarome Iginla. Julien also tabbed Paille, Kelly, and Seguin for a shift in the final two minutes.
“Sometimes lines are great in practice, and they get to a game and not much happens,” Julien said. “Or sometimes lines in practice can be the worst, and they make things happen in the game. You try not to read too much into that sometimes.”
From their nest
Thornton played for the Chicago organization for five seasons. The Blackhawks acquired Thornton from Toronto for Marty Wilford on Sept. 30, 2001. Thornton played that season for Norfolk, Chicago’s AHL affiliate.
The following season, Thornton didn’t expect to make the varsity roster. But Thornton credited his physical testing as one reason he earned his chance. An early injury to Eric Daze gave Thornton his opportunity.
On Oct. 10, 2002, Thornton made his Chicago debut. Thornton dressed in 13 games, playing mostly alongside Michael Nylander and Steve Sullivan on the No. 2 line. Thornton recorded a goal and an assist while logging 31 penalty minutes.
“I was only there until the end of November,” Thornton said. “But it was a great experience, getting my foot in the door. Up and down for the rest of it. I think I only played 30-something games there. I was probably up for 100. I was the extra guy a lot. I was fine with it. Being the extra guy in the NHL is a lot better than being the second-line guy in the AHL.”
Thornton’s teammates in Chicago and Norfolk included Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, and Corey Crawford.
“Those guys were just coming up through,” Thornton recalled. “I played with Duncs in the lockout. You could see they were going to be good players and the organization was going to start going the other way. We were dreadful when I played there.”
Send-off for team
The Bruins are scheduled to practice at TD Garden at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. They will depart for Chicago following practice. Fans are invited to participate in a send-off at the Garden. The first 1,000 fans will be admitted inside the Garden. The Garden will open at 10:30 a.m. for the send-off, which is free and open to the public . . . The Blackhawks have allowed only three power-play goals in 58 chances (94.8 percent) this postseason. Julien credited the Blackhawks for fronting shots effectively . . . The Bruins didn’t make any lineup changes in practice. Healthy scratches for Game 1 should be Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, Wade Redden, Aaron Johnson, Carl Soderberg, Jay Pandolfo, and Jordan Caron.