The rarer the goals, the bigger the role

Published Nov. 1, 2003|Updated Sept. 2, 2005

Dave Andreychuk knows what is ahead of him, but every now and then he gets a glimpse of what is not quite past.

It happened Thursday when the Lightning captain's third-period goal gave Tampa Bay a 2-2 tie with the Sharks. It was Andreychuk's 614th goal and a record-extending 261st on the power play.

It also was his first goal of the season.

"I honestly thought there would be more by now," he said Friday.

Andreychuk acknowledged goals likely will be tougher to come by this season as his role evolves from scorer to more of a defensive and faceoff specialist.

Some of that comes with age. Andreychuk, in his 22nd season, is 40. But the Hamilton, Ontario, native and future Hall of Famer would rather talk in terms of an evolving condition in which he expands his expertise while continuing to contribute.

Andreychuk is still invaluable on the penalty kill and on defensive zone faceoffs. He is averaging 16:46 of ice time, fifth among Tampa Bay forwards. And he and linemates Tim Taylor and Chris Dingman make up the Lightning's top defensive unit.

"I still have to contribute offensively, but I'm more satisfied shutting down the top lines right now," Andreychuk said. "To me, it's just another challenge. I still want to score goals, and when I'm on the power play, my job is to score goals. But if I'm not on the power play, I'm checking."

"I don't think Dave Andreychuk is planning not to score goals, but sooner or later that production is going to slow down," coach John Tortorella said. "It's more or less a weaning off of him, and the other guys have to step up in that area. It's a natural process.

"Andy is going to continue to do all the little things and be the leader that he is, but you can't count on him to be a 20- to 25-goal scorer forever."

It is difficult to see him any other way.

Andreychuk has scored at least 20 in 18 consecutive seasons, behind only Gordie Howe's 22 and Ron Francis' 20. In two previous seasons with the Lightning he had 21 and 20.

Tortorella said that proficiency masked the transition occurring in Andreychuk's game. It is only with Tampa Bay that Andreychuk so finely honed his defensive and penalty-killing skills.

"Dave Andreychuk was never a penalty killer in his career," Tortorella said. "He was never a captain. He was never a guy who took every faceoff in the right circle. That's why he's still in this league and such a huge influence on our team, because of the things he's doing besides scoring goals. The transition has been going on since he's been here with us. He's just impressed us even more by adding the goals."

Who is to say Andreychuk won't get another tonight against the Hurricanes at the St. Pete Times Forum? He was a streaky scorer last season, and five times scored in consecutive games.

If not, Andreychuk said he will happily win his faceoffs and cover his assignments and leave the goal scoring to others.

"I'm smart enough to realize what's ahead of me," he said. "I think you have to have a different mind-set. If I don't score 20 goals so be it. I have enough goals and I have enough milestones. I'm not looking for that anymore."

He is looking for what's next.