SAN JOSE -- They play the fewest minutes of anyone on the ice, but what a hard-hitting fourth line does with those minutes can set the tone for an entire game.
"I definitely think if we're playing in their end and have the momentum, it transfers over to other guys," said Andrew Desjardins, the Sharks' fourth-line center currently slotted between Raffi Torres and Mike Brown. "It's obviously a positive thing when we're going that way."
"All three of us," Brown said, "know that we're going to be running and searching and getting on the forecheck and pucks to the net -- and play that simple game."
Some of that was code for the willingness to hit anyone wearing a Los Angeles Kings jersey, something that helped the Sharks skate off with a 6-3 victory in their series opener. And more of the same is likely when the teams meet Sunday night in Game 2.
Torres may not stay on the fourth line too long as coach Todd McLellan waits to see how the forward's sore knee holds up under playoff pressure before a possible move up the depth chart and the additional ice time that comes with it.
But Torres is well aware of the fourth line's playoff value based on his experience with the Edmonton Oilers in 2006 and the Vancouver Canucks in 2010.
"I've never won a Stanley Cup but I've been to the finals twice and the teams that have won, you could tell it's not two or three guys," Torres said. "It's six D, four lines, great goaltending and obviously solid coaching. Those years that I've gone pretty deep, everybody was a part of it, everybody stuck their hand in the water at some point to help out."
As general manager Doug Wilson was preparing for this year's trade deadline, he envisioned his team having a fourth line of Desjardins, Brown and Adam Burish, with Torres elsewhere in the lineup.
But when Burish broke his hand March 25 blocking a shot in Edmonton and Torres needed more time for the pain to go down in his surgically repaired knee, McLellan decided the fourth line would be a good starting point to see how Torres would do.
If anything, the presence of Torres only magnifies what Wilson was looking for from his team's fourth line back in January: "Energy, bite, penalty kill, speed."
The line did all that in Game 1 against a Los Angeles team that led the NHL in hits last season and has a physical fourth line of its own in Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis and Jordan Nolan. Though the 8:42 that Torres spent on the ice was less than any other Shark, he led the team with seven hits and chipped in a second-period goal.
San Jose's bottom two lines have been a sticking point in the past, and the Shark see their current roster having better depth. McLellan noted Saturday that it has been a "focus organizationally to try to get deeper in those areas and be able to match up against other teams, regardless of how they play, whether it's a physical game, a skill game."
Players on the current fourth line took different paths to the same place.
Desjardins, 27, was undrafted and worked his way up from the Laredo Bucks of the Central Hockey League. In the 2011 playoffs against the Vancouver Canucks, he took the job away from veteran Scott Nichol.
Torres, 31, arrived at the 2013 trade deadline from the Phoenix Coyotes and made an immediate impact before last spring's playoff suspension and knee injury this fall. After Torres was hurt, Brown, 28, was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers for his grit and willingness to drop the gloves.
The is only the second time Brown, whose wife gave birth to their second son on Wednesday, has reached the playoff in eight NHL seasons. Fights may be a postseason rarity, but he still relishes his role as an agitator.
"It's just like bowling. Strike's better than a spare," he said after knocking Kings defenseman Slava Voynov into his own goaltender, Jonathan Quick, in Game 1.
McLellan liked what he saw from Brown in his first playoff game as a Shark.
"He and that line played to their strengths -- straight forward, straight lines with a forecheck mentality," the coach said. "They were responsible defensively, so after 60 minutes we liked their game and his game in particular."