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|8 ноября 2006 года.
Antropov now a banger // Toronto Star
Leafs make use of big man's size on Sundin line
6-6 winger plays tough 'down low,' says happy coach
The Maple Leafs, it appears, exercised perfectly sound economics in asking Nik Antropov to use his pounding, physical presence this season.
Why not more goals out of the 6-foot-6, former first-rounder who is collecting $1.07 million (all figures U.S.) this season? Where his size and draft order once lent visions of a 25-goal winger, Antropov is now on par with the more tailored expectations of players in his wage bracket.
Of the nine players in the Eastern Conference earning between $1 million and $1.1 million this season, only two — Atlanta's Scott Mellanby and Washington's Chris Clark — have broken into the double digits in points (each with 13).
Four members of that class — Chris Neil, Chris Simon, Andre Roy and Donald Brashear — are fisticuff specialists who survive today because they've elevated their skating skills while still contributing with their bodies.
Antropov scored his first goal of the season Monday against Philadelphia and now has a goal and an assist in six games since returning from an ankle injury that forced him to miss half of training camp and the first nine games of the season.
Two points in six games sounds about right for Antropov when compared with peers in his pay scale. Those nine other players have collectively accumulated 50 points, with an average of 5.5 points per player (all but one have played 10 or more games).
"Nik is a big man and he can control the puck along the boards very well ... I don't know of too many big men with great hands, but we think Nik can be a force for us down low," Leaf coach Paul Maurice said.
It has become overwhelmingly obvious that after six years in the NHL, Antropov's career prospects have turned from potential goal scorer to potential muscle man.
In fact, injuries have limited his playing time and prompted critical reviews claiming he has never reached his full potential. His best season offensively has been 16 goals and 29 assists in the 2002-03 season.
While debates raged about his potential, it's clear now that projections for greater offensive output may have been exaggerated. Antropov the goal scorer should have been Antropov the crash-and-banger all along.
The Leafs have been asking that of him for the past two seasons. And while Antropov's name has surfaced in trade rumours for several seasons now, the Leafs have reached a new comfort level with him as someone who can crash the net and hang on to the puck in tough traffic along the boards.
"I have a big body and I have to use it more, and I have a long reach, so I have to use it more often, too," Antropov said.
Maurice restored Antropov to familiar territory — on Mats Sundin's line — in Tampa last week and got the results he was looking for in three of four games since.
The line — Sundin, Antropov and Alex Ponikarovsky — was a mainstay under Pat Quinn. But Antropov's presence there was questioned, primarily because of his lack of speed and finesse.
Maurice said the line's renewal is based on the defence pairings opponents
send over the boards to face Sundin. Antropov, then, will get ice time
on the top line as long as Sundin gets a steady diet of hulking blueliners.