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What Makes A Superb Grinding Line?

09/11/10

After putting together a bruising fourth line, guessing where Tyler Ennis is going to play, and figuring out what the chances are of Drew Stafford staying on the top line, that leaves one option for the third line – Jochen Hecht, Rob Niedermayer, and Mike Grier. It’s no secret that all three men are defensive specialists, but what is it exactly that goes into a fine grinding line?

It’s about working the boards – something Jochen Hecht is a wizard at. Put him anywhere along the dashers or in the corner, and there’s a greater-than-average chance that he’s coming out of the battle with the biscuit and aiming his wacky bad-angle shots at the net.

It’s about defending incoming forwards like you’re on the penalty kill – something Mike Grier has made a career out of. One of the top 20 defensive forwards in the NHL today, Grier has shown a consistent dedication to shutting down opposing players at all times. Whether it be in Edmonton, Washington, San Jose or Buffalo, Mike Grier keeps you on the outside looking in at scoring chances.

It’s about forcing your opponent to earn his space in your zone – something Rob Niedermayer excelled at with defensive teams like the Devils or in a tough conference out west. The lesser known of the two Niedermayers, Rob’s inclusion on a team as a shutdown center is not to be overlooked. He also has experience with Lindy Ruff as a coach, which ought to land him immediately on the penalty kill.

What it isn’t necessarily about is scoring. Not one of the three men on this line has ever been confused for a dynamo scoring threat, but that’s okay. People need to remember this when they start jumping all over Hecht for his dropped production. This is going to sound strange, but his most productive seasons ought to be viewed as flukes based upon the scoring talent he was playing with. On the third line, he’ll be playing with another winger who is known for his stone hands and a center who is less of a scoring threat than his defenseman brother ever was.

The points won’t flow with abundance, but it’s going to be damned tough to score against the Sabres if Lindy Ruff rolls out a checking line of Hecht-Niedermayer-Grier.

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