TAMPA — It will be an emotional next few days for Tampa Bay Lightning captain Marty St. Louis.
Before tonight’s game at The Forum, St. Louis will be recognized for appearing in his 1,000th career NHL game. That will happen with former teammate and fellow 2004 Stanley Cup champion Brad Richards on the opposing bench with the New York Rangers.
After that, former Tampa Bay captain Vinny Lecavalier, a 12-year teammate of St. Louis, will return to Tampa for the first time since signing with the Philadelphia Flyers.
But first will be the ceremony to honor St. Louis’ 1,000th game, which took place Tuesday in Los Angeles. The celebration will begin just after 7:30 p.m.
“It’s exciting for me, it’s exciting for my family,’’ St. Louis said.
During the ceremony, St. Louis will be presented with a commemorative silver stick by the league as well as gifts from the team and his teammates. St. Louis is expected to be joined on the ice by his wife, Heather, and their three children, along with Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman and owner Jeff Vinik.
St. Louis became the 286th player in league history, and just the 16th undrafted player, to accomplish the 1,000-game milestone. All but 69 games have come in a Lightning uniform.
“I am proud of that accomplishment. Not many guys get to get there,’’ St. Louis said. “There are so many variables with injuries, people believing in you. So it’s an honor to be able to achieve that, especially, I think, the way I came into this league. I had to knock on a few doors and I had to make people believe that I could play in this league and at first it was pretty tough.’’
The week comes at a time when St. Louis is struggling offensively with just one goal in 12 games and just six assists in that span. But just as the team is starting to regain its form following a four-game winless stretch during a West Coast trip, St. Louis is starting to bring his game around as well.
Though the offensive production has yet to follow, there are plenty of signs to show a breakthrough is coming.
“I thought he had his best game in weeks (Friday) against Anaheim. He was humming,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “He showed a lot of leadership after the San Jose game (on Thursday) and was a big reason why we got a point in Anaheim.’’
St. Louis can feel that as well and knows plenty of eyes will be on him to lead the way in the absence of Steven Stamkos.
“I know I can get streaky, and it’s one of those situations and I’ve been through it before, so I try not to read into it too much,’’ St. Louis said. “I feel like I’m skating well. I’m playing with new people and trying to get used to them and they are trying to get used to me.
“I put pressure on myself to help the team, and I know it’s a team game, but my whole career I’ve put that pressure on myself and there is nobody that can put more pressure on me than myself. That’s why I’ve been able to play at the level I have.’’