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Lightning all-stars Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier have a shot at accomplishing something not done for 11 seasons, but their focus is elsewhere.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published January 23, 2007
Vinny Lecavalier didn’t even want to think about it. Marty St. Louis said it never enters his mind.
Besides, both said, team accomplishments are much more important than individual accolades.
A nice sentiment. But there is no denying the Lightning linemates, reserves in tonight’s All-Star game at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, are playing in a stratosphere reserved for some of the game’s great names.
St. Louis’s 66 points are second in the league, six points behind Pittsburgh sensation Sidney Crosby. Lecavalier is tied for third with 65. The Lighting players are tied for the lead with 30 goals.
Teammates have finished one-two in scoring only 10 times since the league expanded from six to 12 teams in 1967. The last time was 1996 with Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, who also were tops in goals.
Lecavalier rolled his eyes.
“It’s only been half a season,’’ he said politely but with a sarcastic edge that made it clear he believed the conversation had jumped the gun.
“I’m happy it’s going well with Marty, and we’ll try to keep it going and produce as much as we can for the team.’’
“I don’t think we have to finish 1-2,’’ St. Louis said. “That’s really irrelevant in the big picture. I want to make sure we finish as high as we can as a team.’’
True enough, but the group of players St. Louis and Lecavalier could join is not easily dismissed.
We’re talking Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri, who twice were 1-2; Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr, who did it five times with Espo on top three.
And don’t overlook Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, 2-4 in 1969; Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt, 1-3 in 1977; and Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy, 1-4 in 1979.
“It would be an amazing accomplishment,’’ former NHL coach Pierre McGuire said of finishing 1-2, “especially in this era. I’m talking expansion, salary cap. It’s going to be hard to keep guys who are going to be leaders.’’
Especially players who so thoroughly integrated their ames.
“He makes me better,’’ said Lecavalier, a center, of having St. Louis on right wing.
“You have no choice with him but to play hard. It’s just the way he works out there, the way he skates, the way he’s ready every single game.
“We’re both maturing as players,’’ St. Louis said. “But it’s not new to us. We’ve done it before. We’ve watched each other play and know each other’s assets.’’
The way Lightning coach John Tortorella sees it, St. Louis forces Lecavalier to skate, something the coach tried to hammer into Lecavalier’s head in five previous seasons.
“And when it’s a give-and-go type game, Vinny finds Marty because he is going to get open and Vinny has the talent to get him the puck,’’ Tortorella said.
“It’s a great sign of maturity for both of them in understanding what they mean to each other. They force the other guy to work at another part of their game because of the other’s strength.’’
Regardless of how many points they score, Tortorella said, “I think they are two of the best players in the NHL.’’
Now, that is something to think about.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8622.