Four can score

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

A defensive specialist, a grinder and a tough guy.

That used to be the standard blueprint for assembling a fourth line, but Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish has decided it's time to think outside the box.

With Georges Laraque in Phoenix and Todd Harvey gone, MacTavish, who tinkered with his fourth line last season and never found a combination he was consistently happy with, intends to change things up.

Boasting an abundance of talented forwards on a camp roster that sits at 46 after seven cuts yesterday, MacTavish is looking for more production out of his fourth line.

"I think we have to," MacTavish said. "We'll be looking at chemistry. We'll be looking to make a line that can score and be effective. We haven't had that the last few years."

With Marty Reasoner pencilled in to be MacTavish's fourth-line centre, two spots are open for hopefuls like Toby Petersen, Brad Winchester, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Alexei Mikhnov, Kyle Brodziak and J.F. Jacques, to name just six.

"We're pretty much set with our top three lines and our fourth-line centre," MacTavish said. "The wings are in question. Forwards 13 and 14 are going to be in question.

"Maybe Toby works with Marty and Brad or J.F. Maybe (Patrick) Thoresen steps in there. Maybe Winchester. We've got, probably, six or seven guys who are right in the mix."

MacTavish says taking advantage of new rules opening up the game and exploiting the strengths of his forwards means the fourth line has to have the ability to more than dump-and-chase and crash-and-bang.

Brodziak, 22, a centre who played 10 games with the Oilers last season, likes to take the body, can skate and had 93 points in his final season of junior with Moose Jaw of the WHL. He figures that's right up his alley.

"I'm going to come in and try to play strong defensively," said Brodziak, who played right wing on a line with Jonas Almtorp and Brock Radunske against Florida last night. "That's a strong point of my game.

"I got some experience last year and maybe I can carry that over. I feel more confident with the puck than the last two years.

"For me, the first thing for a fourth-line guy is you don't want to get scored on. The second thing is I think I'm capable of putting the puck in the net, as well."

MacTavish's change in approach means the likes of Mikhnov, Petersen and even Robbie Schremp - primarily offensive-minded players who had to win jobs on the top two lines before to stick - are in the running.

"We had a hard time last year because we didn't have the right fit of a player to mould around Georges," MacTavish said.

"You need a pretty specific centre and a pretty specific winger. We had trouble coming up with that combination. We need offence out of that fourth line and we'll be trying to get it."


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