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Tampa Bay Lightning's Marty St. Louis nears 500th consecutive game

NEW YORK — Marty St. Louis said he did not know about it, hadn't even thought about it and beyond that:

"Let's not even talk about it."

What is so far off the Lightning wing's radar? His 500th consecutive regular-season game, tonight against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

"I really don't think about it," St. Louis insisted. "It's better that way. It's not like I'm counting the games. I'm just playing."

The milestone is not even close to Doug Jarvis' league record of 964 games, and it is the league's third-longest current streak, behind Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester at 533 and Vancouver's Henrik Sedin at 526.

But St. Louis' run — which began Nov. 15, 2005, after he missed two games with a broken finger — stands on its own because of his size (5 feet 7), age (36) and minutes he plays.

St. Louis entered Wednesday seventh among league forwards with an average 21:31 of ice time, and he has not averaged fewer than 20 minutes since 2002-03.

If you include playoffs, St. Louis' streak is at 528 games.

And since missing 26 games in 2001-02 because of a broken leg, St. Louis, including playoffs, has played 749 of 751 games.

"I'm mind-boggled," coach Guy Boucher said. "Take his minutes, take his size, take his age, it's absolutely unreal."

St. Louis has nine goals and 22 points in 27 games. He is on pace for 27 goals, giving him a shot at a seventh 30-goal season, and 69 points, which would be his lowest output since 2005-06 and 30 points fewer than last season.

Part of that is Tampa Bay's chronic inability to bury scoring opportunities, Boucher said.

"He's got a few less points, but he's giving more scoring chances to everyone than last year. They're just not going in. His play has been terrific," Boucher said.

St. Louis credits Darien, Conn., trainer Ben Prentiss with keeping him in bionic shape. And, he said, staying healthy includes luck.

But general manager Steve Yzerman said St. Louis makes his luck.

"He's a little bit like (Detroit's) Nick Lidstrom in that they win battles and are first on the puck but don't get in positions to get run over," Yzerman said. "It's a special player who can do that."

"It's being aware of who you're playing against and their tendencies and who's where," St. Louis said. "I get hit. Sometimes you've got to take a hit to make a play. But it's being aware, anticipating where people are so you go away from a blind-side hit."

The streak has been threatened. St. Louis was so sick before last season's Dec. 26 game against the Thrashers, he almost didn't play.

"He was green," Boucher said.

He had two assists in a 3-2 overtime win.

Before a Nov. 4, 2010, game with the Kings, a needle through a toenail drained blood from St. Louis' bruised left big toe so he could put on his skate.

He has been cut between his eyes by a skate and said a puck off an ankle a few weeks ago might have sidelined him had the team not had a day off.

"You don't feel great, but as the game goes on, you get better," St. Louis said. "You might be sore to start the game, but by the end of the first period, it's gone."

"He is," teammate Victor Hedman said, "one of those warriors."

Tampa Bay Lightning's Marty St. Louis nears 500th consecutive game 12/07/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 10:28pm]
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