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THN.com Blog: Expect big things from Devils' fourth line

Bobby Holik returned to the swamp as a free agent this off-season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Bobby Holik returned to the swamp as a free agent this off-season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

NEWARK, N.J. - The New Jersey Devils might have the best fourth line in the NHL this season. They might also have the most expensive fourth line in the NHL this season.

But one thing is for sure: The Devils will have the biggest fourth line in the NHL this season and arguably one of the biggest lines in the history of the game.

With Bobby Holik (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) centering Michael Rupp (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and Dainius Zubrus (6-foot-3, 212 pounds), the Devils line has a collective height of 18-feet, 11 inches and a total weight of 667 pounds.

The Legion of Doom is the line by which all others are measured, literally. (And I can use literally in this case and really mean it. Not like, he literally carried the team on his back this season. But I digress…) The feared Philadelphia Flyers unit of the early 1990s featured a 6-foot-4, 230-pound Eric Lindros centering a 6-foot-2, 215-pound Mikael Renberg and a 6-foot-3, 226-pound John LeClair.

For those of you keeping score at home, that gives the Holik line two more inches, but four fewer pounds than the Legion of Doom. But Holik, who played with Randy McKay and Mike Peluso on another huge line at that time, said the legion didn’t inflict much doom on them.

“Our line played against the Legion of Doom in the conference final in 1995 and, to be honest, I thought we outplayed them,” Holik said. “I guess they didn’t do much doom there.”

What makes the Holik line so powerful is that all three are big and potentially physical players, have an ability to skate and have good NHL pedigrees. They can also move up and down the depth chart without becoming overwhelmed.

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“Sure we have the size, but every one of us can skate,” Holik said. “Everybody says, ‘Boy they can be physical,’ but I think we can move the puck pretty well, too. And I think we can play against anybody and that helps on the road when you don’t have last change.” 

While the Devils may be shaky on defense, the fact Holik’s line is fourth is a testament to how deep the Devils are up front. Their top line consists of Brian Rolston between Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta, while the second unit has Travis Zajac centering Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner. The third line will have John Madden between Jay Pandolfo and David Clarkson.

Still, the Devils are paying an awful lot for their fourth line. Zubrus is on a long-term deal with a salary cap hit of $3.4 million, Holik takes up $2.5 million in cap space and Rupp comes at a relative bargain at the NHL minimum of $500,000. That pays them a total of $6.4 million, just $900,000 less than the Legion of Doom made at the height of its success.

Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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