Colorado's Fourth Line Knows Its Role
Though it hasn't scored against the Wild, the trio of Cody McLeod, Ian Laperriere and Ben Guite has delivered commanding presence.
(from the Minneapolis Star Tribune)
By Brian Murphy
Special to the Star Tribune
April 15, 2008 - DENVER - With such talented playmakers as Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny as teammates, Colorado Avalanche left winger Cody McLeod doesn't worry about scoring.
"We've got enough firepower," McLeod said.
Instead, he and his mates on the Avalanche fourth line have spent the first round of the Western Conference playoffs matching the toughness and frustrating the Wild.
"I think our main job is to get under people's skin and hopefully draw some penalties," he said before Monday's Game 3 at the Pepsi Center.
Colorado's fourth-liners -- center Ian Laperriere and wings Ben Guite and McLeod -- continued that Monday.
Late in the first period, McLeod lowered his shoulder for a hit on Wild defenseman Martin Skoula, and Skoula gave up the puck and bailed out of the way to avoid the hit. As the period ended, McLeod and Wild winger Pavol Demitra exchanged a few words and shoves.
Midway through the second, Guite drew a two-minute penalty for slashing. That caused the teams to trade a few more pushes and words behind the Wild net. The line landed several big hits on the Wild in the third.
The trio has also kept its cool. Several Wild players, especially Derek Boogaard, Todd Fedoruk and Chris Simon, have tried to get Laperriere and McLeod to drop the gloves, but they haven't taken the bait.
As long as the Laperriere line continues to be a thorn in the side of the Wild, it's doing its job.
"It's important against a team like Minnesota to be physical," Guite said. "At the same time, it's the playoffs. You've got to be physical against every team. ...You just stay on them and make sure that every time they touch the puck, they know we're coming.
"Every time we go out there, we try to set the tone. We try to make sure we pin them down and know we're coming and kind of look over their shoulder and think twice about over-handling the puck. If that leads to a goal on the next shift, then that's awesome."
It did lead to a goal in Game 2. The fourth line had several big hits during a first period shift Friday, and shortly thereafter, Forsberg punched home a goal for the Avalanche.
"They had a couple of real big shifts last game where they had a real presence, and it led to our first goal," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. "They had a couple of real good hit shifts and got some momentum going in our favor. It kind of quiets the building."
Guite, Laperriere and McLeod may not have done much in the boxscore this series -- no points and 11 shots between them -- but they've been a valuable part of Colorado's success.
"They've been great," said Sakic, who centers Colorado's top line. "Really for momentum, we put them out there and they're going to be crashing and banging. They're a very smart line. Offensively, they're taking the body, they're going the net, and defensively they're real sound.
"[The Wild] have four great lines, and you definitely need four as well."