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Rugged Barnaby has goals in mind

Can the tough Lightning acquisition bring offense too?

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 6, 2001


TAMPA -- Rick Dudley didn't need to watch practice Monday to know what kind of player he traded for last week.

But the Lightning general manager did anyway.

Sitting in a blue stadium seat at the Ice Palace, Dudley kept his ear to a cell phone and his eyes on the ice where Matthew Barnaby practiced for the first time since being traded from Pittsburgh on Thursday.

"You know what Matthew brings," Dudley said. "He's got a lot of energy and he works his (tail) off. He plays the game the way it should be played."

Barnaby, a right wing, was paired with center Ryan Johnson and left wing Nils Ekman on the Lightning's second line during practice.

He is expected to be in the lineup for tonight's home game against Minnesota.

"There were a lot of young faces out there, but it's nice," said Barnaby, who will wear No. 36. "I think as the days go by, they'll feel a little more comfortable with me. Things take a little time and I'm going to make my presence felt pretty quickly."

He was speaking of his presence in the locker room, but it also will apply to the ice, where the 27-year-old will add feistiness to a team trying to become tougher.

Barnaby, traded for center Wayne Primeau, ranks second in the league with 168 penalty minutes and led the NHL during 1995-96 with 335 minutes spent in the box.

"Matthew gives us a dimension that we're trying to develop on our team: a little bit of feistiness, strength on the puck, willingness to play in areas," coach John Tortorella said. "He gives us a different intangible we haven't had at times."

But the Lightning want more than penalty minutes from Barnaby.

"The biggest thing with Matthew is he needs to control himself because he can be a good (offensive player)," Tortorella said.

Never a big scorer in the NHL, though he had 44 goals and 67 assists one season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Barnaby has at times shown he has potential to score 20-25 goals.

His 19 goals with Buffalo in 1996-97 were a career high and he had 13 points during the Sabres' playoff run the next season.

This season, his only goal came against the Lightning Oct. 13 when he was given credit after a Tampa Bay defenseman deflected the puck into his net.

"I want to get back to scoring 20 goals a year," Barnaby said. "It's definitely on my mind and it's what I want to do. But I can't forget what got me here. I still have to forecheck hard, finish my checks and stand up for teammates."

What really excites Barnaby is the prospect of increased playing time.

His physical style didn't fit with the Penguins' more European approach. Before the trade, Barnaby averaged 7 minutes, 4 seconds of ice time per game.

"I haven't played in the last three months," he said. "It's going to take a little time to find the timing and get back to playing the way I used to. I look forward to it and accept the challenge. It's going to be a lot of fun."

With 446 career games, Barnaby is third to free agent signee Grant Ledyard, a defenseman activated Monday, and the injured Petr Svoboda in experience.

"(Barnaby's) going to provide leadership for some of the younger guys on the team," defenseman Cory Sarich said. "We need as much leadership as we can get, on the ice and in the locker room."

Said Barnaby: "This is a different challenge. It's a challenge of making the playoffs, seeing kids grow, and that's important to me. If I can say something to a young guy and help bring him along that means something too. To see guys playing better on the ice, to see a team do better and start winning hockey games on a regular basis, then that's equally as rewarding."

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