Captain sits amid shakeup
CANADIENS 3, LIGHTNING 2: Dave Andreychuk is scratched for the first time in Tampa Bay.
By TOM JONES
Published November 9, 2005
MONTREAL - Looking to shake the cobwebs off what has been a sluggish start to the Lightning's season, coach John Tortorella sent shockwaves through the team Tuesday with major shakeups to the lineup.
In the morning, he announced rookie Brian Eklund, who had never played an NHL minute, would start in goal against the Canadiens ahead of struggling No. 1 goalie John Grahame.
But that news was nothing compared to the stunning announcement moments before the game: captain Dave Andreychuk, the team's leader and a shoo-in Hall of Famer, was a healthy scratch for the first time since joining the Lightning in 2001.
Tortorella wasn't through. He loaded up a top line of Brad Richards, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier. He demoted 2004 playoff standout Ruslan Fedotenko to the fourth line and put Martin Cibak back in the lineup.
All the moves did not produce a victory as the Lightning lost 3-2 to the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
The game, however, was a mere footnote to the benching of Andreychuk. But Tortorella did not think the benching was a major shakeup.
"I've already decided David is not going to play all the games this year," Tortorella said. "Don't read too much into this. It's a lineup we wanted to take a look at so we made a change and we'll address our lineup (every game)."
But it was hard not to dewll on it considering Andreychuk had never been benched with the Lightning.
"We're all in this together," forward St. Louis said. "I guess this sends a message that everyone is the same on this team."
Mired in a season-high three-game losing streak coming in, Tortorella and general manager Jay Feaster hatched a plan Tuesday to make changes and Andreychuk, the 23-year veteran and one of the great goal scorers in NHL history, was the odd man out.
Feaster pointed out that Andreychuk, who has two goals in 15 games, struggled in a loss at Toronto on Saturday and was the natural choice to sit against a speedy team such as the Canadiens. However, Feaster also was quick to say Andreychuk wasn't being blamed for the team's recent woes.
"The one thing we've always tried to be consistent about is no one is immune to (being benched)," Feaster said.
Andreychuk took the high road, saying was "a little upset," but not angry with Tortorella.
"I'm smart enough to know it's about the team," Andreychuk said. "They're just trying to get wins and switching up the lineup. I understand that. I don't like it, but that's part of the business."
Andreychuk, 42, said he warned his family before the season that he might not play every game. He said he and Tortorella had several conversations over the past few days.
"And he told me that I might not play every day," Andreychuk said.
However, Andreychuk believes he can still play.
"Absolutely," he said. "I'm not real happy with the way I played. I'm disappointed. But I know I can play better."
Feaster said he supported Tortorella's decision "100 percent" and was not worried that it would affect the team negatively because of Andreychuk's popularity among teammates.
"What I would hope," Feaster said, "is all the guys look at it and say, "We all have to pick it up, we all have to step up our game, we all have to work even harder than we are already working.' "
Meantime, in the other big move, Eklund got his first start ahead of Grahame, who has been inconsistent, particularly in the past three games - all losses. Tortorella said Sean Burke would have started Tuesday (and probably one or two games in the past week) if he were healthy. But Burke has been out since Oct. 29 with a strained groin and does not appear close to returning.
While it's likely Grahame is a tad fatigued after starting 12 of the first 15 games, Tortorella stressed that starting Eklund wasn't just to give Grahame a night off.
"No, this is a lineup change," Tortorella said. "I think the play of Johnny Grahame doesn't determine he stays in there every game. I felt we needed a lineup change. Ek is the next one in line."
The loss, in a game the Lightning led 2-1 going to the third, put the Lightning at 7-7-2, but Feaster bristled at the suggestion the shakeup Tuesday was a panic move.
"No, there's not panic, I tell you that right now," Feaster said. "There's no panic to this situation whatsoever. We wanted a different look."