Andreychuk, 40, awaits Game 7
TAMPA, Fla. -- Dave Andreychuk was so calm, so cool -- some might even suggest nonchalant -- that it was difficult to tell he is on the brink of realizing what has eluded him for more than two decades.
The 40-year-old captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning will be the sentimental favorite in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals against Calgary on Monday night. He has played longer any other active player without hoisting the NHL's most coveted prize.
It's taken Andreychuk 22 seasons to get to this point, yet he insists he's not approaching the biggest game of his life any differently than the other 161 playoff games he's appeared in during what coach John Tortorella says is a Hall of Fame career -- with or without a Stanley Cup title.
"Obviously we are trying to concentrate on one thing, of going into Game 7 and playing the game of our lives," Andreychuk said Sunday, following an optional practice the team held after arriving home from Saturday night's 3-2 double-overtime win that evened the best-of-seven series against the Flames.
"We have given ourselves a chance by winning in Calgary and by no means is it going to be easy just because we are at home," Andreychuk said. "I think we have to realize that. That's what we're concentrating on now, stopping this little streak of not winning two in a row."
The Lightning have alternated wins and losses for a playoff-record 13 consecutive games, an exhilarating -- but sometimes maddening -- run for fans, as well as the families and friends of the players.
Andreychuk's family assembled for start of the playoffs and haven't left town. They shed tears when the Bolts forward reached the Cup final for the first time after Tampa Bay won Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia.
"My family has been here with me right from the beginning, so it's more nerve-racking for them," said Andreychuk, who later joked that they've been in town so long that he's ready for them to leave.
Andreychuk will be participating in the 11th Game 7 of a career that has seen him score 634 goals in 1,597 regular-season games. He's added 43 goals and 54 assists in the postseason, including one goal and 13 assists this year.
A goal scorer in previous stints with Buffalo, Toronto, New Jersey, Boston and Colorado, Andreychuk has accepted a role on a checking line with the Lightning, while continuing to make a valuable contribution on offense.
This season was his 19th with 20 or more goals.
"He does all the little things ... some that we all don't see," Tortorella said.
"But I think what he brings most to this club is handling yourself in that locker room before you get back on the ice. That has always been a constant with David, and he will be there (Monday night) to make sure that we are approaching this the right way mentally. I think that will be the most important thing that he brings to us."
Andreychuk was asked if the Lightning win, if he might be inclined to retire and "ride off into the sunset."
"I guess I will make that decision whether I am going to ride off tomorrow," he said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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