SUN Hockey Pool

Fourth line looking for minutes

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:47 PM ET

It's not easy being a fourth-liner.

Fourth-liners often do more sitting than skating in a hockey game. And when the tap on the shoulder does come, they better make the most of their opportunity - or risk not getting another one.

This season, Edmonton Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish has used a number of players on the fourth line looking for the right combination. He has yet to find it, although Jani Rita, Marty Reasoner and Todd Harvey did look good in a 5-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

"It's a tough thing. Ask anybody, it's one of the hardest positions to play in the league," said Harvey. "It's easy to play 15 minutes a night, because you are in the game. But when you are sitting there for long periods of time, to keep yourself mentally ready and physically ready - obviously your legs get a little stiff - it's tough."

Due to their solid effort against the Blackhawks, the trio will be back together tonight on the fourth line when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Rexall Place. How long they stay together will be dictated by their play.

"If you talk to them, it's the chicken and egg scenario," MacTavish said. "They'll tell you production comes with opportunity and I think the opportunity comes with production.

"It's no secret that we've had difficulty getting elements that fit. That continuity in terms of speed, reliability and physical play. That's why a lot of nights in the close games it's a mish-mash back there."

Rita made the most of his opportunity, scoring his third goal of the season and playing arguably his best game in the win over Chicago.

"It felt awesome to get a goal," he said. "It had been a while since I got one and to get back into the lineup and score felt good."

DVORAK CLOSE TO RETURN: Radek Dvorak's return to the Edmonton Oilers lineup is imminent.

However, the Oilers winger is not about to make the same mistake twice.

Dvorak has been out of the lineup since reinjuring his groin in a 2-1 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 13. He had originally obtained the injury in practice a week earlier.

"It feels fine," Dvorak said. "I've had a couple of good practices. I don't have any problems skating, so we'll see."

Dvorak did practise yesterday, but will re-evaluate his condition today.

And while the Oilers would like to have their second-line winger back in the lineup, they are not about to push the situation.

"We learned a little bit of a lesson the last time we put him in," Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish said. "All systems said go the last time. We have to be careful with him."


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