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Blue Jackets-Lightning Preview @NHLdotcom
Blue Jackets-Lightning Preview

GAME: Columbus Blue Jackets (14-27-2) at Tampa Bay Lightning (21-19-3).

TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Just one season ago, captain Dave Andreychuk was leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to their first Stanley Cup Championship. He won't get the chance to do that again.

The slumping Lightning play their first game since waiving the storied veteran at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The 42-year-old left wing had six goals and 12 assists in 42 games for the Lightning this season and was in the lineup for Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins. However, Tampa Bay didn't think he could keep up with the pace of the game this season.

Lightning general manager Jay Feaster credited Andreychuk for his hard work during the lockout, but said neither he nor the coaches could foresee "the type of game the new NHL would be upon its return - a game in which speed and quickness carry the day. After giving ourselves half a season to evaluate and analyze, it became clear to us that David's game was not suited to the new NHL."

Andreychuk ranks second all-time in the NHL among left wings in goals (640), assists (698) and points (1,338). He reached the 20-goal mark in 19 seasons, most recently in 2003-04, trailing only Gordie Howe (22) and Ron Francis (20).

"I know I've not played the way I can," Andreychuk said during a news conference Thursday. "That's been disheartening to me. But I continued to try. ... I still want to be a player. ... To be told you're not going to play any more, that's hard to swallow."

In his 23 seasons, Andreychuk also played for Buffalo, Toronto, New Jersey, Boston and Colorado, and his 1,338 points are tied for 23rd all-time.

The Lightning have not found a prolific goal-scorer this season, instead relying on a balanced offense. That has yet to prove successful as they have lost eight of their last 11 games.

Evgeny Artyukhin tallied a goal and an assist in Saturday's loss while Vincent Lecavalier and Fredrik Modin also scored. The Lightning have gone 0-for-30 on the power play in their last six games while scoring just 26 goals in their last 11 contests.

While the Lightning continue to struggle, the Blue Jackets are 5-2-1 in their last eight games and coming off a 6-1 win Wednesday over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Columbus set season highs in goals scored killed off all eight Penguins power plays. The Blue Jackets are also 5-for-10 on the power play over the last two games.

"We're coming around," said Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash, who had a goal and two assists to extend his points streak to six games (seven goals, five assists). "We've had some of the same line combinations for a couple weeks now. Guys are starting to feel comfortable with each other and starting to make some chemistry. I think that's a big issue and the reason we're playing so well."

Jaroslav Balastik scored twice and Sergei Fedorov added a goal and two assists while rookie goaltender Pascal Leclaire made 28 saves.

The Lightning are coming off a 2-2 road trip and will embark on another four-game road trip after this game.

STANDINGS: Blue Jackets - 30 points, 4th place, 29 PB, Central Division. Lightning - 45 points, 3rd place, 15 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blue Jackets - Nikolai Zherdev, 12 goals; David Vyborny, 17 assists; Zherdev, Bryan Berard and Vyborny, 25 points; Jody Shelley, 100 PIM. Lightning - Modin, 18 goals; Vaclav Prospal and Brad Richards, 29 assists; Prospal, 46 points; Pavel Kubina, 64 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blue Jackets - Power play: 13.4 percent (33 for 246), 28th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.6 percent (247 for 299), 14th. Lightning - Power play: 13.5 percent (35 for 260), 27th. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (180 for 220), 17th.

GOALTENDERS: Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (8-16-0, 1 SO, 3.31 GAA); Leclaire (3-8-2, 3.47). Lightning - John Grahame (16-14-1, 2, 2.93); Sean Burke (5-4-2, 2.69).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 2, 2004; Blue Jackets, 2-0. At Tampa Bay, Fla., Rostislav Klesla and Manny Malhotra scored for the Blue Jackets, while Denis made 37 saves to earn the shutout.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jackets - 5-16-2 on the road; Lightning - 11-9-1 at home.

Associated Press
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