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Another feat for captain

Dave Andreychuk plays game No. 1,500 tonight, but shows no sign of stopping soon.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 4, 2003

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Dave Andreychuk wants to play another season.

The Lightning captain has considered the rigors of preparing for his 22nd NHL season and thought about those days when the bumps and bruises made it tough to get up in the morning.

"I'm coming back if they want me," Andreychuk said Monday. "I've felt that like everybody else, you're scared to retire, of what's next. This is all I know how to do, so I might as well keep doing it."

General manager Jay Feaster declined comment on the future of any Tampa Bay player, saying he did not want to distract from the team's playoff run. "We're not going to address anything with anyone until the season is over," he said.

It has been a season of milestones for Andreychuk, whose likely Hall of Fame career includes 609 goals, 12th all time, and a record 256 on the power play.

The left wing will further tie himself to the game's elite tonight against the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum, where he will become the ninth to play 1,500 regular-season games.

Andreychuk, 39, a native of Hamilton, Ontario, said the mark will be his most cherished.

"It's something that can't be taken away from me," he said. "I thought about it, all the training camps you go through to get to that point, all the work you put in. I'm pretty proud of that."

"I think he's unbelievable," Feaster said. "He's the epitome of a warrior. It's amazing to watch him."

Andreychuk was supposed to play much less than the 16:25 he averaged last season to save him for special-teams play and allow the transfer of responsibility to Tamp Bay's younger players.

Instead, Andreychuk is averaging 16:02, and 19:25 in his past eight games.

"He dictates that," coach John Tortorella said. "I have to put him on the ice because he does so many good things for us. He's going to play, especially this time of year in crucial situations because he's been there before."

Andreychuk has 16 goals, 11 on the power play. He kills penalties and takes defensive-zone faceoffs regardless of the line on the ice. Entering Monday, his 58.51 winning percentage was eighth among players with more than 800 draws.

"He's a horse," Tortorella said. "He's a consummate pro. He's a guy who right on through his career kept on going, understood how to prepare, understood what his strengths were and has been a pro right on through."

Lightning associate coach Craig Ramsay was Andreychuk's teammate when the 19-year-old broke in with the Sabres in 1982. Andreychuk primarily was an offensive threat, and Ramsay said it is gratifying to see his complete game.

As for the 1,500 games, Ramsay, who played 1,070, said, "To maintain the physical preparedness and mental edge it takes to play year after year, it's really a tremendous accomplishment for him."

"I don't know if I can comprehend playing that many games," said defenseman Cory Sarich, who has played 273. "It's a lot of hard work and perseverance to put your stuff on and go out there every night."

Andreychuk said his plan was to play until 30.

"But I guess the games creep up on you before you realize it," he said.

No player has played more games without a Stanley Cup. But Andreychuk, who has been in 128 playoff games, said he came to terms with that long ago.

He said being part of Tampa Bay's resurgence is one of his career highlights.

It reinforced his decision last season to decline Feaster's offer of a trade-deadline move to a contender (the Canadiens were interested) and is a main reason he wants to return after his two-year, $1.7-million contract expires at the end of the season.

He is an unquestioned team leader whose most important accomplishment is "what we've done together, what we've accomplished together."

Asked how he relates to teammates on the league's fourth-youngest team, Andreychuk smiled and said, "They're trying to relate to me."

Maybe for another year.

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