Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow have been happily engaged in line-mate bliss for quite some time now. This will be their fourth full season joined at the hockey hip, and they've had a lot of right wings along the way. Loui Eriksson spent time there before he had fully blossomed. Stu Barnes and Mike Modano made appearances there off and on in the 2007-2008 season. Jere Lehtinen has held the job the longest, though off and on, due to injury.
Last year Fabian Brunnstrom was given priority in training camp on that line. All he had to do was keep it. Then came Jamie Benn charging out of seemingly nowhere to claim the job. A season later and Jamie Benn is being directed elsewhere by the coaching staff leaving these two with another rotating door at right wing. Jonathan Cheechoo was given the same chance Fabian was last year and could not quite fit the bill. Lehtinen is
retired? waiting?... well, we don't know, but it brings the list of likely candidates down to only a few more guys.
McRibs makes it pretty clear that he would prefer to have a right handed shot on his line for purposes of puck distribution. With Cheechoo gone and Lehtinen's status undetermined, the only right shots are Brandon Segal and Adam Burish.
Burish got his look on Saturday night, and while he didn't directly figure into the scoring, Ribeiro and Morrow did. Twice. Morrow credited Adam with good work away from the puck and with creating space for them to score.
Burish talked in the locker room on Saturday morning about the opportunity. "I've played at times in my career with high end guys. Guys like Ribby. .In chicago I had a good chunk of games with guys like Patrick Kane, and had some success there. I'm excited about the opportunity and I think I can bring something special to that line."
With the roster trimmed down, playing time should increase for these NHL players and we'll hopefully get another look at Burish with Ribeiro before Wandell comes back and complicates things a little.
"I think just getting to the net...getting on pucks for those guys, and especially for Mike, and then just getting to the net [...]. He's so good, if you just get your stick open , he's going to find it."
The trick for Burish would be finding the edge between trying to help Morrow and Ribeiro score, while still doing what he was brought here to do: Bring the "grit" and that kind of Steve Ott-ish annoyance. He knows any goal scoring success he may have will come from doing the dirty work.
"If you can get to the net and those open spaces and use your speed and that kind of I-don't-care-if-I-get-hit-in-the-face attitude, then you're gonna clean up some pucks and have some success."
His speed has been an little under-sold to us at this point. I was pleased with his skating on Saturday night (in direct contrast to the skating of the departed Cheechoo).
Will it be Burish? Segal? Brunnstrom? I don't know. One injury shuffles the whole thing around. Were this a video game, one might put Benn back on this line and keep Gagnon at center. The Petersen/Gagnon/Segal line was a lot of fun to see against the Blues. Ah, well. The only constant with the lines on this team is that they always seem to be changing.
The good news is that Ribeiro and Morrow look sharp and ready to go no matter who plays on their right side.