Tampa Bay Lightning
Artyukhin Gaining A Reputation
TAMPA - Lightning forward Evgeny Artyukhin possesses a rare combination of size (6-foot-5) paired with blazing speed and raw talent that tantalizes coaches. When Artyukhin steps on the ice, a buzz is created and opposing players give their teammates the heads-up. And when Artyukhin finishes a check, it often rattles the boards and forces everyone to take notice. But lately, Artyukhin is gaining the attention of opposing teams for something not entirely intended - he's viewed as the same type of pest as Ottawa's Jarkko Ruutu or Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke. In the waning minutes of Thursday's game in Toronto, Artyukhin had his stick between the legs of Maple Leafs winger Ben Ondrus that resulted in misconduct penalties for Artyukhin, Ondrus, Ryan Craig and Toronto coach Ron Wilson.And it prompted Ondrus to suggest after the game that someone should take Artyukhin to task. "Maybe someone beats the crap out of him and he doesn't do it again," Ondrus said. "I was standing there and he put his stick between my legs and he tried to lift me up or something, I don't know what he was doing. I don't think he speaks a word of English so that was another problem." Artyukhin doesn't know if anything will carry over into tonight's game as Toronto rolls into town, but he hopes to encounter Ondrus at some point. "For me, there really isn't anything to say, but I'll try to talk to the guy and let him know I can speak English," Artyukhin said. In trying to encompass the entire package Artyukhin is capable of bringing to the ice, Lightning interim coach Rick Tocchet has expressed frustration throughout the season and expressed on Monday that Artyukhin's "hockey IQ has to improve." Tocchet likes the way Artyukhin finishes his checks and understands why he can get under the skin of players. "The way Arty plays, he does hit and stuff, but the one thing I would like to see him do is when he does hit, sometimes after the whistle he skates away from guys, and I think that's maybe why guys get ticked at him," Tocchet said. "Every once in a while you have to stay in the pile, I think. He's a big guy and that's what used to drive me nuts, is when guys would run and hit you and then take off after the whistle. "I'm not saying Arty does that, but that's what the pests do. And I don't think Arty is that kind of pest. He's not the kind of guy that sticks you and runs. He hits you, but he's not the kind of guy who will stick you and then skate away." Artyukhin doesn't mind if his actions result in drawing the attention of the other team if it means they are seeking retribution instead of trying to win the game, but it's not his intention. "I don't know if I have that kind of an impact, but I'm not out there doing dirty stuff," he said.
Reporter Erik Erlendsson can be reached at (813) 259-7835.