By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
At 42, Dave Andreychuk helps the Lightning in many ways, including scoring.
TAMPA - Dave Andreychuk looked to have the puck glued to his stick during one particular shift Wednesday night in New Jersy and no matter how hard he tried, a Devils defenseman just couldn't wrestle the puck from the Lightning captain.
"Come on!" a Devils fan yelled. "The guy is 60 years old!"
Even at his advanced age (42, not 60), Andreychuk still is making a difference and infuriating opposing fans. Take Wednesday. With the Lightning tied 3-3 in the third period, Andreychuk scored the winning goal and tacked on another for insurance in a 6-3 victory for his first two goals of the season.
He's not the goal scorer he once was. That's not even his role anymore. He's supposed to win a few faceoffs. Play good defense. Stand in front on power plays. Kill penalties.
No longer is he expected to carry a team offensively as he was back in his heyday.
But don't tell him that.
"I have to chip in with goals every once in a while," Andreychuk said. "I think I have the attitude that a lot of us have and have to have. I know there's a lot of pressure on our key players to score every night. So you shouldn't just think it's okay if we don't score. We all need to chip in."
Andreychuk has been doing more than chipping in for 22 years. He has more power-play goals (271) than anyone in NHL history. He is 11th in league history with 636 goals and second among left wings.
"Scoring goals," Andreychuk said, "has been my bread and butter."
It still is, according to him. It's obvious he isn't satisfied with simply riding out his career as a faceoff specialist who knows how to play defense. His two-goal performance Wednesday was, to him, another day at the office.
"Nothing he does surprises me," teammate Tim Taylor said. "The reason he has a lot of great statistics doesn't have to do with longevity. It's because he's such a great player. I don't expect anything less from him because that's the way he is."
In four seasons with the Lightning, Andreychuk has never scored fewer than 20 goals. In fact, he has scored at least 20 goals an incredible 19 times. Yet, each passing season, he has seen as a checking forward and any goals he scores are simply icing.
Strange thinking about one of the most dominant scorers in NHL history who manages to keep on ticking.
"I still expect to score," Andreychuk said. "I went into this year thinking I have the chance to score a lot of goals. Knowing that there were going to be a lot of penalties called, I would continue to get chances to score."
With all the penalties, Andreychuk's role is changing. Lightning coach John Tortorella said Thursday he wants Andreychuk to play less and less in five-on-five situations. On Wednesday, Andreychuk centered what one would consider the fourth line with rookie wings Evgeny Artyukhin and Nick Tarnasky.
Tortorella wants to save Andreychuk for power plays, penalty killing and key faceoffs.
Tortorella thinks it will make him more effective in games and more effective as the NHL season gets into the dog days of the season. As it is, Andreychuk is playing nearly 15 minutes a game.
"Special teams and faceoffs - that's the most important role David has right now," Tortorella said. "But Andy will get his ice time. Andy is not going to be a 5-6 minute man. He's still going to get the proper amount of ice time."
Of course, Andreychuk's biggest asset continues to be his leadership. It was Andreychuk who ordered a players-only meeting following a disheartening 4-1 loss to Ottawa last Friday. The team responded with the impressive victory against New Jersey and it was Andreychuk leading the charge.
By night's end, you look at the statistics and see that Andreychuk has seven points in 10 games. Map that out over a whole season and that's equal to a 57-point season, including 16 goals.
That's more than respectable for a 42-year-old, fourth-line, special-team, faceoff, defensive specialist. But it is short of his magic 20-goal mark.
"That doesn't matter to me," Andreychuk said. "I guess if you achieve something like that, it's nice. But it's not as important as being consistent. But that number doesn't matter. What matters is winning games, winning divisions, win playoff games.
"At the same time, it's not okay not to score. I expect to score."