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Lightning players and their roles

Times Staff
Published April 8, 2004

Goaltenders

47 JOHN GRAHAME

AGE: 28.

HT/WT: 6-2, 220.

HIS JOB: A solid backup. A team player but wanted a starting job bad enough to never let Nikolai Khabibulin get comfortable. Tortorella likes Grahame's size and combative attitude. He'll live with some scary stickhandling because Grahame makes more good plays than bad.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Grahame provided a soft cushion by, at one point, winning 11 of 14 decisions. When Grahame is on, his positioning is sound, his glove is quick and he makes it look easy. His mobility gets him into some precarious positions, but he is a tremendous competitor.

CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through 2005-06.

35 NIKOLAI KHABIBULIN

PRONOUNCED: hah-bee-BOO-lihn.

AGE: 31.

HT/WT: 6-1, 203.

HIS JOB: No. 1 goaltender and to meet lofty expectations. Khabibulin had much to prove after being pulled from Game 5 of the East semifinals against the Devils. One of the best post-to-post, Khabibulin needed to strengthen his glove side and not allow goals at bad times.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Inconsistent. Khabibulin had glorious highs such as the thrilling 1-1 tie with the Red Wings and a 9-0-1 run. The lows were soft goals at inopportune moments. Khabibulin made many spectacular saves. The ones that appeared to be routine sometimes were the problem.

CONTRACT STATUS: Team option for next season.

Defensemen

22 DAN BOYLE

AGE: 27.

HT/WT: 5-11, 190.

HIS JOB: To provide a spark on offense and be the team's iron man. Boyle will be the first to tell you that with increased productivity from the forwards he did not have to do as much on offense. That allowed him to focus more on improving defensively.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Boyle struggled early, and it was no surprise he and the power play were doing it at the same time. But by season's end, Boyle struck a good balance between his offensive and defensive responsibilities, was moving the puck with confidence and led the team with an average of 22:45ice time.

CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through 2004-05.

5 JASSEN CULLIMORE

HT/WT: 6-5, 244.

HIS JOB: To anchor the defense. Cullimore is not going to give you a lot of offense, but he can clear the front of the net and throw big body checks. An extremely hard worker and a great shot blocker. Cullimore is sound positionally and does not try to overextend himself.

HIS PERFORMANCE: It would have been easy for Cullimore to play it safe after last season's major shoulder surgery. Instead, he played in 79 of 82 games and took another step in his development. Coach John Tortorella said he has elevated his game to top-four status.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

13 PAVEL KUBINA

PRONOUNCED: koo-BEE-nuh.

AGE: Turns 27 April 15.

HT/WT: 6-4, 230.

HIS JOB: Develop into the top-four defenseman everyone has expected. No one denies Kubina's ability, the trick was getting it honed to be productive both offensively and defensively. That had to start with the athlete himself.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Gratifying. It began when Kubina showed up for training camp in the best shape of his career. It continued when he finally figured out he's better off defensively on his skates than sprawled on the ice. It ended with a career-high 17goals, tied for the league lead among defensemen.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

37 BRAD LUKOWICH

PRONOUNCED: loo-KUH-which.

AGE: 27.

HT/WT: 6-1, 200.

HIS JOB: Continue developing as the team's scrappiest and hard-nosed blue-liner. No one gets nicked up as much as Lukowich, but that is because he puts his nose into the thick of battle. A good hitter and opportunistic on offense, Lukowich has become a solid contributor and a preeminent locker room DJ.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Started slowly but got better and better. His fivegoals and 19points were career highs and he threw surprisingly strong body checks. He said his facial stitch count hit 100 this season. He also set new entertainment standards by bringing rock bands to the locker room after games.

2 STAN NECKAR

PRONOUNCED: NEHTS-kahsh.

AGE: 28.

HT/WT: 6-1, 209.

HIS JOB: Defensive insurance. Neckar was acquired at the trade deadline for blue-line depth in case of injury. He is not expected to play except in emergencies.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Neckar came from the Predators with a groin injury that had allowed him to play just one game. It took him two weeks before he could skate with his new teammates and did not play in a regular season game.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

44 NOLAN PRATT

AGE: 28.

HT/WT: 6-3, 203.

HIS JOB: Depth. Pratt played in the top six before Darryl Sydor was acquired from the Blue Jackets. Pratt was not happy with his diminished role but handled it with class and professionalism. And he always stayed ready for action.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Couldn't have asked for anything better. Pratt became a reserve after Sydor arrived. But when Sydor missed two games because of an undisclosed upper-body injury, Pratt stepped in and played, possibly, better than when he was regularly in the lineup. "A great credit to him," coach John Tortorella said.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

38 DARREN RUMBLE

AGE: 35.

HT/WT: 6-1, 200.

HIS JOB: Depth. Rumble was told before the season he would see action only in emergency situations. And that is what happened. Rumble played only five games and has not played since Dec. 13. He will be the second defenseman off the bench in the playoffs behind Nolan Pratt.

HIS PERFORMANCE: A tireless worker in practice, Rumble brags (tongue in cheek) that he schooled the Lightning's best players on their best moves. Great attitude. When he did play, he did not hurt the team. A great team guy happy to be in the league.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

21 CORY SARICH

PRONOUNCED: SAHR-ihch.

AGE: 25.

HT/WT: 6-3, 204.

HIS JOB: Stay at home player with the ability to deliver a devastating body check. The physical aspect of Sarich's game has not showed up as much as he has learned to pick and choose when to send a jolt. He also was asked to add some offense if opportunities presented.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Exactly what was expected. Sarich even jumped into the offense with career highs of 16assists and 19points. He also took another step on defense. His stickwork and positioning were sounder and he was more confident playing against the opposition's top players.

55 DARRYL SYDOR

PRONOUNCED: sih-DOHR.

AGE: 31.

HT/WT: 6-1, 205.

HIS JOB: Everything associated with a top four defenseman. Sydor was supposed to solidify the defense and spring the team's transition with a good pass from the defensive zone. He also took a turn on the power play. He's still learning Tampa Bay's system, but his comfort level is increasing.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Sydor said the most difficult part of coming to the Lightning from the Blue Jackets on Jan. 27 was acclimating to Tampa Bay's commitment to offense. Everyone joins the rush, which was new for Sydor. But his first pass in the defensive zone has been strong and he is a battler on defense.

CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through 2006-07.

Forwards

29 DMITRY AFANASENKOV

PRONOUNCED: a-fahn-a-SEHN-kahv.

AGE: 23.

HT/WT: 6-2, 200.

HIS JOB: Afanasenkov was supposed to play on the top two offensive lines. He found his niche with Dave Andreychuk and Tim Taylor on the third, providing speed for a couple of slower vets with a willingness to battle for the puck.

HIS PERFORMANCE: If only Afanasenkov could finish, he would be a huge force. But his inability to score despite many great chances produced by his churning legs kept him frustrated. But his willingness to get his nose dirty defensively and a pair of great hands made him an overall pleasant surprise.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

25 DAVE ANDREYCHUK

PRONOUNCED: AN-druh-chuhk.

AGE: 40.

HT/WT: 6-4, 220.

HIS JOB: Veteran leadership. His presence has touched almost every aspect of the team's game. He is a staple on the penalty kill and the power play and will take faceoffs in the defensive zone regardless of what line is on the ice. His locker-room leadership also is invaluable.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Stellar. Andreychuk's 17:06average ice time was 40seconds more than last season and his 21goals gave him at least 20 in 19 seasons. Only Gordie Howe (22) and Ron Francis (20) have more. His 634goals are 11th all-time and his 270power play goals are a league record. A nominee for the Masterton Award, presented for perseverance and dedication to hockey.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

8 MARTIN CIBAK

PRONOUNCED: SEE-bak.

AGE: 23.

HT/WT: 6-3, 200.

HIS JOB: Defense comes first for Cibak who centered the fourth line. He was a constant in the lineup after winning the final roster position coming out of preseason. A good skater, he also is not afraid to take the body and get physical in the corners.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Cibak could have scored more. Cibak wanted to score more. But playing an average of 7:35a game does not help that process. Instead, Cibak worked with his linemates to create a forecheck and keep the opponents pinned in their zone. When on, his game was energetic and gritty.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

7 BEN CLYMER

PRONOUNCED: KLIGH-muhr.

AGE: Turns 26 on Sunday.

HT/WT: 6-1, 198.

HIS JOB: Energy on the forecheck and on defense and chip in with a goal now and then. Actually, coach John Tortorella asked Clymer to concentrate even more on offense this season. Clymer has the ability and determination, and gives everything he has every night.

HIS PERFORMANCE: He probably should have scored more, but you can't quibble with Clymer's effort. Willing to do whatever was asked - he could even play defense in a pinch - Clymer is one of those gritty players who never complains that you want on your team.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

11 CHRIS DINGMAN

AGE: 27.

HT/WT: 6-4, 235.

HIS JOB: Doing a lot of work that must be done but gets little credit. Dingman did the grunt work such as battling along the boards for the puck and playing on a line that provides a defensive presence. And don't forget the enforcer duties.

HIS PERFORMANCE: One of the toughest Lightning players to knock off the puck, Dingman uses his body as a shield. Provided little offense playing on the fourth line but made his presence felt physically. When Andre Roy was a perpetual scratch, Dingman was the guy who stood up for his teammates.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

17 RUSLAN FEDOTENKO

AGE: 25.

HT/WT: 6-2, 195.

HIS JOB: Improve on last season's effort. Fedotenko scored 19 goals in 2002-03, which meant he had a desire for 20. He fell a bit short with 17but the second half of the season showed what Fedotenko can do when he is churning his legs and getting to the net. Improved defensively too.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Things were going so badly early in the season, Fedotenko said he seriously considered asking general manager Jay Feaster for a trade. He didn't and both sides are probably glad. Fedotenko's grittiness helped on a line built for speed with Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

4 VINNY LECAVALIER

PRONOUNCED: luh-kav-uhl-YAY.

AGE: 24 on April 21.

HT/WT: 6-4, 207.

HIS JOB: To take his place among the game's elite players. There wasn't much Lecavalier was not expected to do this season. Coming off a season of career highs, it was realistic to believe he could reach 40 goals and 90 points.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Lecavalier slumped badly, along with the rest of the team, through December and into January. It was not until he acknowledged his poor play did he turn things around. Lecavalier was a different player the second half. His 32goals were impressive given he had just 13on Jan. 21. He still struggles with faceoffs and on breakaways, but his game began to take off.

CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through 2004-05.

33 FREDRIK MODIN

PRONOUNCED: moh-DEEN.

AGE: 29.

HT/WT: 6-4, 220.

HIS JOB: Get back on track after two seasons of sub-par goal production. That was easier this season because Modin was healthy for the first time since 2000-01 when he scored a career-high 32 goals. Big, strong and determined, Modin also was expected to use his big body on the penalty kill and in the defensive zone.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Amazing what feeling good can do for one's game. Modin scored 29goals, became a fixture on the penalty kill and earned back the power-play time he had lost. Willing to play a complete game, he also became one the team's best defensive forwards. A horse.

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

9 ERIC PERRIN

PRONOUNCED: peh-REHN.

AGE: 28.

HT/WT: 5-9, 176.

HIS JOB: Bring energy, defense and a goal now and then. Perrin was brought in with four games remaining in the regular season when coach John Tortorella was trying to figure out his fourth line. Perrin's heavy forecheck and willingness to get back quickly on defense are plusses. He also has quick hands.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Perrin did what was expected. He skated hard, got deep on the forecheck and every now and then flashed an offensive move that gave you an idea of what might be a regular part of the package. How much playing time he gets in the postseason remains to be seen.

CONTRACT STATUS: .

19 BRAD RICHARDS

AGE: 23.

HT/WT: 6-1, 194.

HIS JOB: One of the team's best at seeing the ice, Richards can be the ultimate playmaker. His talent, though, demands he be much more, and he took significant steps in that direction. There is still work to be done on faceoffs and he is better defensively, but there is no questioning his commitment.

HIS PERFORMANCE: His career-high 26goals and 79points were evidence of Richards' most well-rounded season as a pro despite a December slump that seemed to plague the entire team. Significantly better defensively, Richards still must get to the net more, but those are quibbles in a successful season.

CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through 2005-06.

36 ANDRE ROY

PRONOUNCED: wah.

AGE: 29.

HT/WT: 6-3, 221.

HIS JOB: To be the team's primary enforcer. But after a 2002-03 season in which he had career highs of 10 goals and 17 points, a more well-rounded game was expected. Roy's ability and willingness to fight and hit make him a formidable force, especially when focused.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Underwhelming. Roy was scratched 26 consecutive games while trying to reconcile playing with emotion and playing emotionally. When he did get into the lineup, Roy was energetic and active and fought when necessary, but the long layoff kept him from finding a rhythm.

CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through 2004-05.

26 MARTIN ST. LOUIS

PRONOUNCED: San-loo-EE.

AGE: 28.

HT/WT: 5-8, 181.

HIS JOB: As it turns out, possibly earning league MVP honors. St. Louis took a huge step up from last season, when he shined so brightly in the playoffs. His terrific speed puts great pressure on defenses and his ability to change directions while carrying the puck is scary.

HIS PERFORMANCE: It's mind-boggling to think where St. Louis would have been had he not gone through a one-goal, 19-game slump. St. Louis led the league with 94 points, assists, nine shorthanded goals and 12 shorthanded points. If that's not an MVP season, what is?

CONTRACT STATUS: Unsigned after this season.

61 CORY STILLMAN

AGE: 30.

HT/WT: 6-0, 197.

HIS JOB: Take over for Vinny Prospal. That was the easy way to look at it anyway. The Lightning claimed all along it was not a one-for-one change, and they were right. Stillman turned out to be better with a sharper nose for the net and a leadership quality in the locker room.

HIS PERFORMANCE: Usually buries his chances, had career highs of 55assists and 80points, and led the team with 11power-play goals. A student of the game who understands playing within one's capabilities.

27 TIM TAYLOR

AGE: 35.

HT/WT: 6-1, 190.

HIS JOB: The dirty jobs; defending the opponent's top players, taking critical faceoffs, battling along the boards for the puck and teaming with Dave Andreychuk as locker room leaders.

HIS PERFORMANCE: His 22points were the most since 1997-98 with the Bruins. And he did it with a broken hand bone for which he declined to have surgery. Andreychuk gets mentioned most when it comes to leadership but Taylor pulls a similar load.

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