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John McGourty | Staff Writer
Feb 1, 2007, 12:00 PM EST

Mel and Ruth Recchi's determined son, Mark, is rarely mentioned among the NHL's great players -- good, yes, useful, yes, skilled, definitely -- but great? Hmmm.

Perhaps it's time we revisit that judgment.

Often seen as a complementary player to stars like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Pierre Turgeon, Vincent Damphousse, John Leclair and Keith Primeau, Recchi has thrived through 18 NHL seasons, bookending his career by earning Stanley Cups with the 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins and 2006 Carolina Hurricanes.

Yes, Recchi is a complementary player, the ultimate in team-first dedication and a set-up man par excellence, but Recchi has his own claim to greatness.

Recchi, 39 on Thursday, is that rare, rare NHL player who has contributed point-or-better production for nearly two decades. Since he broke in with the 1988-89 Pittsburgh Penguins, Recchi has scored 501 goals and added 812 assists for 1,313 points in 1,304 NHL games. He scored his 500th goal Friday against the Dallas Stars and had another goal in that game and another in the next game against the Phoenix Coyotes.

How long has Recchi been playing? He scored his first goal against Eldon "Pokey" Reddick on Jan. 20, 1989.

Can this guy rise to an important occasion? He has played on teams that have won 47 Stanley Cup Playoff games and he had the game-winning goal in nine of them, or 19 percent. He had two for the Hurricanes last year and two for Pittsburgh in 1991. Recchi's winner in Game 4 last June put the Hurricanes up, 3-1, against the Oilers.

Recchi led the 1991 Penguins in scoring with 113 points, including 40 goals and had 10 goals and 24 assists in the Playoffs.

"Yes, it's been pretty awesome," Recchi said in a League conference call. "And, I have to thank (NHL publicist) Dave (Keon) for telling everybody my age. I was trying to hide that. It's obviously been great.
"Winning in '91 and getting an opportunity with Carolina last year to win, that's what keeps me going. I look at our team right now and I see a contender in the not too far distance here. That's what I play for. Ultimately, that's what we all play for. You get a taste of it and you want to keep going and I'd like to take another run at it again."

Recchi's three goals and three assists last week earned him the NHL's first Star of the Week. More importantly to him, it helped his Penguins move into second place in the Atlantic Division. Good things are happening for the Penguins. Second-year star Sidney Crosby leads the NHL with 53 assists and 78 points, while Evgeni Malkin leads NHL rookies with 24 goals and 52 points. Recchi ranks third in Penguins' scoring with 17 goals and 48 points.

Recchi signed a one-year contract last summer, making this his third stint in Pittsburgh. He gave strong indication this week that he has no thoughts of retiring soon.

"I obviously love what I see here," he said. "I think this team is not too far from being a contender. I'd like to be part of that again. I think Ray Shero has done a terrific job of getting these young guys in here and letting them grow and he's a smart guy and he'll figure some things out.

"So, I'd definitely like to be a part of this. Obviously, you never know, come summer time, whether the organization wants to go a different direction. But I like it here and I like these young guys and I like where they're going. Hopefully I can be a part of this for another year or two."

Recchi is also impressed with coach Michel Therrien's no-nonsense approach and strategies designed to free up space for his burgeoning talent.

"He's been terrific all year. From last year to this year, I think he's learned a tremendous amount about the League," Recchi said. "He was in Montreal, and I think he learned a lot there and coming back in last year and getting his feet back in it, he's been terrific from Day One. He's been great at handling the message and he's been really good about communicating with the leaders on the team about what he expects.

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