What Carter does night-in and night-out epitomizes the Devils system of hard forechecking and defensive responsibility. Sure, he's a fourth-liner in terms of minutes, but he brings so much more to the table.
What the former Minnesota State star brings is grit and determination. He might not score highlight reel goals at will, but star players don't score the type of goals that he scores. Why? Because it's all about hustle. Take Tuesday night for example. It was the end of the period and it was a puck that was lazily drifting into the Rangers zone. How many players would have gotten a change or just pressured the Ranger player to the puck? Instead, Carter dove on the puck and used a power move towards the net and fired a quick shot that Henrik Lundqvist wasn't ready for.
The point is, Carter isn't going to sit back and snipe a goaltender for his goals. He works for them. We saw him make a great move against the Predators that resulted in Cam Janssen's goal.
These are skills that you can't necessarily teach. His extra effort and knack for driving to the net at the right time are just pure hockey sense.
It hasn't exactly been all smooth sailing for Carter and the fourth line this season. Up until this week, when Janssen was called up, the line wasn't producing. After Stephen Gionta went down with an injury, the fourth line was certainly in question. They've responded to the challenge, though. With Janssen's two goals in the last four games and Carter's four points, (2g, 2a) the fourth line has been a spark.
"The year didn't start off the way we wanted to and it's easy to get negative, to sulk a little bit, but (Janssen) injected some positivity into us and low and behold, look what happened," said Carter to the media after Tuesday night's win.
It's no coincidence that this team is winning with the fourth line producing goals. When you can score with all four lines, it makes you an immeasurably deeper team. Opponents can certainly game-plan and roll their top lines against one or two lines, but if the other lines are producing, it's makes the Devils much more difficult to defend.
Believe it or not, the demotion of Rostislav Olesz to the minors might have been a big spark for this club. Not only because of Janssen's play of late, but because it sent a message to everyone on the roster that if the production isn't there, changes could be made.
In the wake of that move, Carter has elevated his game. While no one knows what is in the mind of players after seeing someone sent down like Olesz, who wasn't playing all that bad, you have to think that it puts everyone on notice.
After the game, it was all business for the White Bear Lake, MN native, who downplayed his performance and even mentioned that he wasn't even thinking about a hat-trick with the net empty late in the third.
"I was thinking, just get it past the blue line, the games over."
As this team creeps back towards .500 and currently sits just five points out of first place in the Metropolitan Division, it's going to continue to be scoring by committee. This roster isn't built to beat teams with their top two lines. It's tenacious players like Ryan Carter contributing to the cause and playing a team-first game that will be the difference moving forward.