Up-Coming 3rd Liners the Avs Should Watch

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Everyone talks about keeping an eye out for the top-6 of teams, and with good reason. Coaches typically put their best players on those lines. (Head coach Patrick Roy is shaking things up with his scoring duos, but that’s a different story.)

The Colorado Avalanche have a solid defensive pairing in Erik Johnson and Nick Holden, and those blueliners see the big minutes against the big lines, plus specialty teams. However, they don’t always end up on the ice against the 3rd line. The following rascals from upcoming matches can give the Avalanche some worry if they’re not careful.

Rene Bourque, Montreal Canadiens

Bourque made a name for himself in the 2014 playoffs, earning eight goals in 17 games — two of them game winners. Pretty good stuff for a 3rd-liner.

Thus far, he’s been less impressive in the regular season, having recorded just one assist. However, Bourque’s a big boy at 6-foot-2, 217 pounds. He’s got a physical edge to his game, and he can burn a player on the breakaway. He could give someone like Nate Guenin or, sorry to say, Tyson Barrie some trouble.

Jiri Sekac, Montreal Canadiens

Sekac is a little stinker against the Avalanche. The rookie scored in the preseason game at the Pepsi Colisee in Quebec city to eventually help the Canadiens fell the Avs. He’s currently lined up with Bourque.

The Czech-born Sekac displays the snipers skills typical of his countrymen. He’s lankier than the tank-like Bourque, but that seems to make him stream-lined for speed. He’s also got a nose for making plays. With a little more NHL experience under his belt, he could help Bourque in worrying the Avs. He just recorded his first NHL goal in a game against the Boston Bruins.

Dave Bollard, Florida Panthers

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In his own way, Bollard is like Jarome Iginla, only not Hall of Fame bound. He’s a strong leader, and so already earned the ‘A’ on his sweater upon joining the Florida Panthers this season.

Bollard doesn’t put up big offensive numbers, but that’s because he’s so good at his defensive game. He’s really the kind of player the Avalanche forwards could grow to hate because he has the defensive chops to slow them down. He’s also a pest — the kind of guy who’s going to earn a big check or two from Iginla, if they’re lined up against each other.

Zack Kassian, Vancouver Canucks

Kassian, well, he’s not a nice guy. A bruising 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, he’s one of those players everyone loves to hate. He’s a power forward who always garners talks of if he should see top-six playing time — yet Vancouver keeps him on the 3rd line.

Kassian is aggressive, especially in the corners. And he can fight. Brad Stuart can take care of him — or he and Cody McLeod can tag-team Kassian.

Brad Richardson, Vancouver Canucks

Remember when Richardson was an Avalanche player? He was drafted by the Avs in an un-memorable 2003 draft. He actually played 136 games for Colorado between 2005 to 2008.

Anyway, Richardson is a versatile forward who can log time in all three positions. He has enough defensive chops to slow the Avs speedsters down. He’s also not afraid to get physical, especially in the corners.

The Avalanche, of course, have solid lines to face these 3rd-line threats. Captain Garbriel Landeskog can mix up with any 3rd-liner, as can Iginla. Star center Matt Duchene and wonder-kid Nate MacKinnon can motor past the cloggiest of 3rd-liners. Stuart and Jan Hejda have the size to deal with the more physical on the list. The Avs are in good shape — the above guys are just noteworthy pests in the bottom-six.