Behind every great first line is a strong second line. That’s a formula — depth at forward — that the San Jose Sharks have successfully followed for years, and it’s now evident with the Dallas Stars, with Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson providing a strong second-line punch. So, when you look at the early-season success of Anze Kopitar and his linemates, don’t forget to nod in the direction of Dustin Penner, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown, who have made matchup situations more difficult for opposing coaches and who have made life easier for Terry Murray. No longer can teams simply key on Kopitar’s line.
MURRAY: “That’s something that players recognize right away, I think, is the matchups. They’re looking at the back ends [defensemen] in particular and they’re nodding at each other if they’ve got that third pair out there. `This is the shift. Let’s get it in, get it going and get after them.’ It makes it difficult for the opposing coach when you have a couple lines that are a threat out there. Whenever there is, in the players’ minds, a mismatch or I see something there, where I can get a line out in a mismatch situation, I’ll try to jump on that one right away. It’s a nice feeling for a player, I think, to have a little less pressure sometimes, just in a couple shifts in a game or a period, so they can get a nice comfort level of play in the offensive zone, where there’s a real good feeling coming back to the bench and they’re saying, `That feels good, guys. Let’s get out there and keep doing it.’’’