Veteran center Tim Taylor has played every game for the Lightning this season, a fact he points out while rapping the locker room bench with his knuckles.
Knock on wood.
Taylor completely tore a groin muscle last season, but refused to leave the lineup as long as Tampa Bay was in the playoff hunt. Rather than have surgery that would have sidelined him for a year, he built up the muscles around the groin.
"I'm proud of the fact I was able to come back and play every game," said Taylor, 34, a nine-year pro. "It didn't look like I could do it in training camp. But I'm getting stronger every day."
The Tampa Bay chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association has nominated Taylor for the Masterton Award, given to the player who best represents perseverance and dedication to hockey.
Taylor and captain Dave Andreychuk were acquired before last season to mentor the Lightning's young stars and solidify the locker room. A third-line player whose job is to counter opponents' top scoring lines, Taylor rarely gets recognized.
He has three goals and seven assists. But his impact is hard to measure with statistics.
"As a defensive player, you don't get a lot of accolades," he said. "The accolades come in wins and knowing that within your locker room your teammates respect what you do. To grow with this team and be involved with it right now is so much fun."
HERE TO HELP: Defenseman Janne Laukkanen, acquired Tuesday to provide depth on the blue line, understands he might not get much playing time.
"The guys here do a great job already, so if something happens I'm ready to go in and show what I've got," said Laukkanen, claimed on waivers from the Rangers. "If not, I am happy to be here and cheer for guys and try to play better and better every day."
THEN AND NOW: Defenseman Marc Bergevin, acquired Tuesday in a trade with Pittsburgh for Brian Holzinger, was an original member of the Lightning. The franchise, he said, is much different than during his first stint.
"Obviously, the team is more established than when I left," said Bergevin, a 19-year pro. "It's a playoff team. There is a lot of depth and the skill level is higher. Then, it was brand new."
ONE-TIMERS: Lightning D Brad Lukowich played. He was questionable with a hip flexor. Cory Sarich scored his career-high 12th point of the season. Andre Roy tied his career high of 16 points set last season. Dan Boyle and Vinny Lecavalier sustained cuts on their chins requiring six and three stitches, respectively. Bergevin, Laukkanen, RW Jimmie Olvestad, LW Chris Dingman and D Darren Rumble were healthy scratches.
_ JOANNE KORTH