- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

Dave Andreychuk has put in the time. He just doesn't have the ring to show for it.

Andreychuk has skated in 1,515 regular-season games, ninth all-time and the most for any NHL player whose name hasn't been etched onto the Stanley Cup. And although the Tampa Bay Lightning have rallied to tie the Eastern Conference quarterfinals with the Washington Capitals at 2-2 heading into Game 5 tonight, Tampa Bay's captain almost certainly will have to suit up for a 22nd season next fall at 40 to have a shot at that prize.

Yet Andreychuk, whose 613 goals rank 11th all-time (eight of the 10 players ahead of him have won titles), isn't frustrated about being the NHL's Karl Malone or John Stockton.

"I wouldn't give up a lot that I've done, the people that I've met and the experiences that I've had to win the Cup," said Andreychuk, who drew the elbowing penalty that set the stage for Vincent Lecavalier's winning goal in overtime in Game 3 and fed Martin St. Louis for the shorthanded goal that broke the Caps' spirit in Game 4. "That's what I'm playing for, but it won't make my career a disappointment if I don't win one."

Andreychuk has made the playoffs in 17 of his 21 seasons with six teams (Buffalo, Toronto, New Jersey, Colorado, Boston and Tampa Bay). Two of his teams the 1993 Maple Leafs and the 2000 Avalanche lost Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

"I've been fortunate to have been on some very good teams that were close and didn't get there," Andreychuk said with his typical positive spin.

Lightning coach John Tortorella, in his first playoff series as a head coach, lost all but one of his eight series as an assistant with Buffalo and Phoenix. He's using Andreychuk as a sounding board for himself as well as for a roster chock full of postseason neophytes.

"At this time of the year and with where we are as a club, this is where Dave is so important," Tortorella said. "He has been in so many different situations in the playoffs being up two games, being down two games, whatever it may be. We have drawn on him in our meetings. Dave knows how to prepare when you're down 2-0 in a series [as the Leafs were in the first round in 1993 before rallying to beat Detroit in seven games]. This is another one of his challenges, trying to help a young team fight through a situation like this."

Tampa Bay trailed 4-2 late in the second period of Game 2 when Andreychuk fired a couple of quick shots on Caps goalie Olie Kolzig. Andreychuk followed up with two good scoring chances early in the third period before finally beating Kolzig on a one-timer with 9:16 remaining for his 40th playoff goal.

"That was vintage Dave Andreychuk," Tortorella said before his captain's huge plays in the back-to-back victories that tied the series. "I've seen Dave play with a broken jaw. I know what kind of competitor he is. I was in Buffalo when Dave got run out of town [in 1993] because they thought he was lazy. He gets that label because he can't skate."

Of course, a player can't lose speed he never had, so Andreychuk remains the type of player he always has been. Few players have ever been as effective in front of the net as the 6-foot-4, 220-pound left wing. Andreychuk's 260 regular-season power-play goals are an NHL record.

Center Alexander Svitov wasn't even born when Andreychuk broke in with the Sabres on Oct. 6, 1982. Five other Lightning players were just 1 or 2 back then, but defenseman Cory Sarich, 24, said Andreychuk doesn't have a problem getting along with the Gen X-ers.

"Dave keeps himself in pretty decent shape, but his big thing is his mindset," defenseman Brad Lukowich said. "He knows how to get along in this league. Maybe we don't see him around when the music's pounding, but he's usually leading most of our activities. Dave's still just one of the guys. He has been great all year. He leads by example with how hard he plays."

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