Islanders fans have grown accustomed to expecting big things out of their fourth line, but with Matt Martin in Toronto, who will take his place alongside Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck?
With the E=MC-squared line officially broken up, the Isles brain trust has given a lot of thought to how they want the lines to look, and Newsday's Art Staple has shared some insight into that thinking.
"It seems that the [Nikolay] Kulemin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck line is a thing that the Islanders are going to give a serious look," Staple wrote after the three were grouped together for Wednesday night's exhibition game against the Devils. "Kulemin and Matt Martin have a few things in common, notably that they could both clear space for their quicker, more offense-minded linemates on this line. Kulemin is better in his own end than Martin was.
"Some thought that Cizikas and Clutterbuck might work better with a smaller, craftier wing, someone such as Shane Prince (still out nursing a lower-body injury) or [Alan] Quine or even [Anthony] Beauvillier," Staple continued. "But Jack Capuano and the staff want to keep the dynamics of that "fourth" line similar to when Martin was here, it appears."
I really like the idea of Kulemin playing on that line. Like Staple said, Kulemin is a far better player in the defensive end than Matty is, and that would allow the Isles to still keep utilizing that line like they like do, throwing them out after a goal, and trying to neutralize their opponent's counter-punch.
I actually think Quine and/or Prince work far better playing up with the skill players. Both have pretty good jump, Quine in particular, and it adds a dimension to a guy like Ryan Strome or Brock Nelson's game to have a player who skates like Quine or shoots like Prince.
Overall, the fourth line should be really interesting to follow, if only for the strange expectations people have out of it. Some expect more out of Cizikas because of the contract extension he signed this summer, or Clutterbuck because he's in his walk year.
In reality, neither of these guys need to do much more than we've gotten used to getting out of them. If they can put forth energetic shifts to keep opponents on their heels, while effectively killing penalties when called upon, they'll be just fine, no matter who the third man on the line ends up being.