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Fourth line provides energy

Late in the series, those with little playing time have been able to contribute a lot.

By JOANNE KORTH
Published June 8, 2004

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]

TAMPA - The Lightning got a burst of energy in the final stages of the Stanley Cup final from a somewhat unlikely source: It's little-used fourth line.

Center Martin Cibak and wings Chris Dingman and Ben Clymer did not log nearly the ice time as top-line stars Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Vinny Lecavalier, but the unsung trio made the most of its limited appearances.

"We're just keeping it simple," Dingman said. "We talk about, as a line, that all the time we can play in Calgary's end is good for our team. We're in their end, tiring their defense out. You never know, they might get too tired and it might open something up for one of our other lines. We're just gritty. Just chip it in, cycle and try to hang onto it."

The high energy brought by Tampa Bay's fourth line might actually come from a lack of playing time. That's Cibak's theory, anyway.

Before Games 4, 5 and 6, Cibak had played in two previous playoff games and not since May 20 against the Flyers in Game 6. Clymer had played in one but not since April 16 against the Islanders in Game 5 of the quarterfinals.

Each averaged nearly eight minutes per game.

"We have lots of energy," Cibak said. "The other guys are tired because they played so many games. We're just trying to help the team by going hard every shift and trying to make them tired on every shift."

Coach John Tortorella agreed.

"It's an energy line," Tortorella said. "Some of the guys haven't played and I think they are a little bit fresher and they have brought great energy at times in the game when we have needed it. When we have struggled a bit, they took the pressure off and played in Calgary's end."

Dingman has played seven seasons. He scored four points during Colorado's title run in 2001 but said this postseason might be the best he has played at hockey's highest level.

"It just seems like I'm having fun again," Dingman said. "It's fun playing hockey. In Denver, I thought I had the opportunity and contributed four points but just didn't have the level of ice time as these last couple games. It's just a combination of opportunity, and I just think it started working."

Dingman has three points while averaging 6:01 of ice time in 22 games.

"I think it's a bit of opportunity and chance and hard work," Dingman said. "Those two guys that came in, Clymes and Cibie, Clymes was out for over a month and Cibak was in and out. As a line, we played together a little bit during the season, and I think it's just a result of those two guys being hungry and it's a credit to those guys being able to step in."

Clymer said he was not nearly as rusty as he might have thought when he made his Stanley Cup final debut in Game 5. Adrenaline, he said, got him through.

And the energy level was easy to sustain.

"It's not hard at this time of year because of the big picture of where you're at as a team," Clymer said. "The absolute deafening noise of the crowd, it's a unique atmosphere. It's a cool atmosphere to play in."

- Times staff writers Damian Cristodero and Frank Pastor contributed to this report.

[Last modified June 8, 2004, 01:00:38]

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