The Bruins' depth up front has left that trio as the club's fourth unit though, whether they go by that numerical designation or the more palatable "energy line" moniker or even Thornton's catchy "Merlot Line" nickname coined for the wine-colored jerseys they wear in practice.
But just because the Bruins are fortunate enough to have three strong lines ahead of them on the depth chart doesn't mean this line can't contribute plenty to the club's cause. They proved that once again on Thursday, helping create two of Boston's four third-period goals as the Bruins rallied for a 4-1 win in New Jersey.
With Boston trailing 1-0 going into the final frame, it was that line that helped get things going. Campbell won a battle for the puck with Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov deep in the right corner of the New Jersey end. Campbell got it out to Thornton in the slot, and he tapped it on to defenseman Andrew Ference, who tied the game with a blast from the top of the left circle.
"When you get a goal it provides a team with some momentum," Campbell said. "For us, I think we just wanted to create that momentum with our line going forward and get the energy that we needed. I thought that was lacking in the first two periods, so it was nice to see Andy get that goal there. It was kind of a sigh of relief."
Relief turned to elation as the Bruins followed Ference's goal with three more to put the game away. After Nathan Horton gave Boston its first lead of the night with a power-play goal, Campbell added a huge insurance goal just 35 seconds later. He banged home a rebound of a Thornton shot, with Paille also picking up an assist on the play.
That goal completed the Gordie Howe hat trick for Campbell, the first leg of which he accomplished with a spirited scrap in the opening period.
"Realistically, you're only as good as your linemates and your teammates," Campbell said. "My linemates were good tonight. My wingers were moving their feet and we were on top of the puck and putting pucks on [New Jersey netminder Martin] Brodeur. We had some success tonight. Sometimes things aren't going to go your way, sometimes they are, and fortunately for us tonight they did."
The fourth line has done a good job of helping make sure things usually go Boston's way. Often that's with the energy their physical play creates, but they can also contribute on the scoresheet. That's been especially true against the Devils this season. In three games against New Jersey, that trio, plus Jordan Caron, who filled in for Paille in the first meeting back in November, are a combined 4-8-12 with two fighting majors and a plus-14 rating. Campbell is 2-3-5 and a plus-6 in three games against the Devils, while Thornton is 2-2-4 and a plus-4.
"They were good again," Julien said. "We scored a big goal, got ourselves back in the game and the next shift you're asking them to go out and keep the tempo and the momentum going your way and they did that and more. That was huge for us. We need that from that line and we know they're capable of doing it. They proved it again tonight."