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Playoff contender looks at Andreychuk

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 18, 2002


TAMPA -- The Canadiens want Lightning forward Dave Andreychuk.

TAMPA -- The Canadiens want Lightning forward Dave Andreychuk.

Montreal, which is one point ahead of the Rangers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, needs scoring punch up front, and Andreychuk's play has caught its attention.

Canadiens center Doug Gilmour, who played with Andreychuk on the Maple Leafs and Devils, recently called his friend to make his pitch.

"He talked to me," Andreychuk said. "He told me they could use me and that they have a good chance of getting in the playoffs. He likes the city and likes the guys."

Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said Andreychuk will almost certainly not be traded before Tuesday's deadline. In fact, he said he wants the 38-year-old future Hall of Famer to play next season for Tampa Bay. The club has an option on his contract, which pays $800,000.

"Trading Dave Andreychuk at the deadline is the wrong message to send the players in our locker room, and the wrong message to send to our fans," Feaster said. "I'm simply not going to do it. He wants to be here and wants to be part of it."

Andreychuk, who has 15 goals, 14 assists, including four goals, four assists his past seven games, said he does not want to leave.

"I made a commitment to this team to come down here," he said. "I don't want to leave them any time soon."

There is one caveat. Feaster said if a favorite to win the Stanley Cup asked about Andreychuk, he would speak to the player about a trade to give him a chance at his first championship.

Andreychuk said he appreciates the consideration.

"It makes it easier for me to choose the team I want to go to," he said. "He said he'd let me know."

NEXT SEASON: Feaster said he spoke to Andreychuk about playing. Andreychuk, whose 244 power-play goals, including one Sunday against Buffalo, are five behind Phil Esposito's record, said he will decide after the season.

"But right now," he said, "I feel that I can play again."

"That man is a warrior in my opinion," Feaster said. "In 12 years in this business I've been a round a handful of truly special players, true warriors. They are guys who leave everything on the ice and it's all about the team. He is one of those truly special players."

DIETER'S DAY: Dieter Kochan might get his first start of the season tonight against the Flyers. He said he is much more prepared to earn the backup spot than last season, when he failed to grab the No. 2 spot behind Kevin Weekes.

Kochan, 27, said he has learned to stay back in the net, which makes it easier to handle rebounds. His call-up Friday from AHL's Springfield came when he was playing well. Last season's call-up from IHL's Detroit came when he was slumping.

"I had not been playing well and then I played in Boston and it didn't go well," he said. "Now I'm on top of my game. It doesn't matter where I'm playing. I have confidence."

Kochan admitted he was disappointed when the Lightning called up Evgeny Konstantinov from ECHL's Pensacola after Weekes was traded. But Kochan said he understands management's wish to keep him playing in the minors and not sitting behind Nikolai Khabibulin.

That's why it makes sense Kochan, 21-20-1 with a 2.67 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage for Springfield, will play tonight, the second game of a back-to-back.

"I've played this game long enough to know you can't worry about things you can't control," Kochan said. "I deserve to be here."

"He's earned it and should have an arrogance about him to where it's no big deal," said Lightning goaltenders coach Jeff Reese, who has worked with Kochan by video and phone. "He's ready for the opportunity. He's got nothing to lose. Just go out and play."

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