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News: St. Petersburg Times - 3/19/98

Richer, Tucker Ignite Lightning
By Tim Buckley

His bum ankle is so sore he couldn't skate in the morning. He doesn't have to do too much more to prove he is the real deal. And the games count for little, except perhaps pride.
But try telling Lightning center Darcy Tucker he can take a break, and the response is like the one Tucker delivered Wednesday night.
Whataya, crazy?
Tucker overcame the pain and proved a point about his character Wednesday, scoring one goal and assisting on two others as Tampa Bay beat Vancouver 4-2 in front of an Ice Palace crowd of 13,842 that included cancer-stricken Lightning center John Cullen.
"We're both the type of guys who want to do anything to help a team win," Tucker said. "I have the utmost respect for John Cullen, as a player and a person."
So with Cullen watching, Tucker could only aid the victory.
He did that by assisting on a Stephane Richer goal that tied the game, scoring a late first-period goal that put the Lightning ahead 2-1 and assisting on what proved to be the game-winner by linemate Jody Hull 35 seconds into the second period.
Tucker got his goal on a power-play, when his pass to Alex Selivanov deflected off Canucks defenseman Bret Hedican and past Canucks goalie Garth Snow.
The 5-foot-11, 182-pound center picked up an assist on Richer's first-period goal, scored when Richer emerged from behind Snow's net with a Hull pass and took tough-angle shot to answer Alexander Mogilny's rebound goal.
Tucker got his second assist by taking the shot that Hull tipped past Snow early in the second, and that plus the 33-save goaltending of Mark Fitzpatrick was good for the last-place Lightning's 15th win of the season.
Richer wound up with two goals and two assists in a four-point night, and Hull finished with three points himself (one goal, two assists).
So the line with Richer on the right wing, Hull on the left and Tucker in the middle produced 10 points.
But that's not all.
"We asked Tucker, Richer and Jody Hull to cover one of the best lines in hockey -- (Mark) Messier's line with (Pavel) Bure," Demers said. "They did a good job."
And they did it on just their second night together.
"I think we complement each other well," Hull said. "You've got scoring in Stephane, an up-and-down mucker in Tucker and myself thinking defense first."
"Hully's good defensively," Tucker said. "I think that's what makes the line click."
Yet it was the effort of Tucker that perhaps best personified the qualities Lightning fans loved so much in Cullen, who is in a fight for his life with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Small but feisty and not much bigger than Cullen, Tucker plays with much the same grit. He plays the same position. And he plays like he loves the game, which he truly does.
"Maybe a lot of people don't know about him, but I know him from Montreal and this kid works hard night after night," said Richer, who along with Tucker and defenseman David Wilkie was traded to Tampa Bay on Jan. 15. "Every shift he's out there trying to prove himself. He works harder than anybody you'll find. He doesn't mind paying the price to get the job done. I have a lot of respect for that kid."
Richer is not alone.
"He's feisty, like Cully," Lightning forward Mikael Andersson said. "They really work through everything, and really move their feet and arms. They're tough guys to play against. I think they're alike in a lot of ways."
"A lot of guys say that," said Tucker, 22, who readily acknowledges he is not yet the All-Star player Cullen has been.
"I think Johnny is a lot more skilled than I am," added Tucker, who played on gimpy, bruised right ankle. "I'm more of a mucker and grinder. I'll be the first to admit that. But if guys compliment me like that, I'll take it with a smile because I know what John Cullen is all about."

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