TAMPA — Sitting on stage outside The Forum, Dave Andreychuk was surrounded by more than a dozen family members and thousands of fans on the plaza as he waited to see his likeness unveiled in the form of a statue.
As Andreychuk and wife Sue stood off to the side in front of the stage, daughters Caci, Taylor and Brooke had the honor of pulling down the black cloth covering the 9-foot tall statue depicting Andreychuk raising the Stanley Cup which will eventually rest at the entrance to Thunder Alley and welcome fans as they walk into The Forum.
The ceremony included a speech by Lightning founder Phil Esposito and Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman, who was Andreychuk’s first head coach in Buffalo, before Andreychuk took to the microphone thanking team owner Jeff Vinik, CEO Tod Leiweke and COO Steve Griggs as well as his family, highlighting the “magical, magical season’’ which the statue truly depicts, immortalizing the team’s first championship.
“When I think about the statue, and what does the statue mean, to me it’s to celebrate the day and to celebrate what actually happened here,’’ Andreychuk said. “It’s not about me and what I did, it’s about what our team did and what the community did. And I’m so proud that anybody who walks into this building relives that moment. It was so special, and whether you were here or not, you will still talk about that day and it will live on forever. And to me, that’s just incredible.’’
Three former Lightning teammates - Chris Dingman, Stan Neckar and Jassen Cullimore - were also on hand for the unveiling.
D Andrej Sustr returned to the Lightning on Friday and found himself back in the lineup on Saturday.
The rookie, signed as a free agent out of the University of Nebraska-Omaha last season, played in 38 games with Tampa Bay earlier this season before he was sent to Syracuse of the American Hockey League in order for the 23-year-old to play some top pairing minutes to help him gain more experience.
But a concussion coupled with a shoulder injury 10 games after coming back from the concussion limited Sustr to just 12 games with Syracuse since he was sent down Jan. 16. Despite getting limited playing time because of the injuries, Sustr said he took advantage in other areas.
“I’ve never been hurt in the past, so it was different for me but I really feel that I made the most out of it, working on my strength on my lower body and make sure that I was ready to go when I came back,’’ Sustr said. “And watching games from above, you see how plays develop and you see you have more time than you actually think you have on the ice, so you definitely learn from watching games from up top.’’
Associate coach Rick Bowness, who runs the defense, said Sustr has everything needed to be an NHL defenseman expect for the experience.
“He’s very calm with the puck and makes a lot of good outlet passes and has a lot of hockey sense, this kid knows how to play the game,’’ Bowness said. “Obviously the experience is a key factor, and that’s why we sent him down to get some playing time. But he can play in this league and he has certainly demonstrated that before and that’s what we expect to see out of him. He needs experience and we expect him to be in this league a long time.’’
Sustr picked up his first career NHL goal in the second period, cutting down the left point to jump on a rebound of Ryan Malone’s deflected shot at 6:44 of the second period.
Back in net
Tampa Bay went back to G Ben Bishop for Saturday’s game for his 62nd start of the season. Bishop has played in both games since the Lightning clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday while backup G Anders Lindback has played just twice since getting injured on Jan. 30 (Lindback also played two conditioning games in Syracuse) as Bishop has started 30 of the past 32 games, though he left two games early due to injury. With such a heavy workload already, it might make sense to give Bishop some rest heading into the playoffs.
“He says he feels fresh and rested and wants to play,’’ Bowness said. “We have a day off on Sunday, we don’t play again until Tuesday so that’s a couple of days between games. And we want home ice, so when you want home ice you play your best players.’’
Nuts and Bolts
Tampa Bay scratched D Mark Barberio, C Tom Pyatt, C Cody Kunyk, RW Richard Panik and D Mike Kostka (concussion). ... Lightning prospect G Andrey Vasilevskiy stopped 26-of-29 shots for Salavat in a double overtime loss to Metallurg in the semifinals of the Kontinental Hockey League playoffs on Saturday. Metallurg, backstopped by Lightning property Vasily Kosheschkin and coached by Mike Keenan, holds a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 will take place on Monday in Ufa, Russia.