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|11 февраля 2009
Decisions out of Antropov's control; 'Nothing I Can Do'; Leafs forward shrugs off Burke's recent comments // National Post
SUNRISE, FLA. - On the morning after the night before, Nik Antropov did what he always does when his uneven hockey career is discussed: He shrugged, smiled, and emphasized that decisions away from the rink are beyond his control.
"Obviously, it's difficult to hear things like that," Antropov admitted when asked about general manager Brian Burke's remarks on Monday that the native of Kazakhstan will likely not be offered a contract extension by the Leafs. "I wasn't surprised with those comments because [my future] has been talked about all the time in the past few months.
"There's nothing I can do. I'm a hockey player and it's my business to show my best on the ice. If [Burke] wants to make changes to this team, he has a full right to do that."
The 29-year-old Antropov can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Burke said that a change of scenery would likely benefit Antropov after a decade in a Toronto jersey, and that he will meet with the player when the Leafs return home from this week-long road trip.
When asked if he deserved to be spoken about so bluntly in the media, Antropov replied: "I can't comment on that. As I said, it's his right -- he's the GM -- he wants to re-build this team and I guess he feels that way about me. Do I need a change? Maybe ... I don't know."
This season has been typical of the up-and-down struggle Antropov has endured throughout his career. After a good start --he scored 13 goals in the first 32 games -- the veteran forward fell into a dreadful slump and entered last night with just three goals in the past 21 games. That pattern doesn't surprise coach Ron Wilson.
"When you look at his numbers, they're not unlike his other years in the NHL," Wilson said. "He doesn't have someone of Mats Sundin's magnitude to play with, so I actually think he's having a pretty good year.
"He had a slump that he seems to go through every season -- a period in December and January when he struggled to score. A lot of players have things like that. But, where we're going in the future is an entirely different story.
"We've got to get younger; we've got to get quicker; we've got to get meaner. In many cases, we've got to get more skilled. So, there's going to be a lot of changes, and we've talked about that all year. I don't think this [Antropov discussion] should be a revelation to anyone."
Asked whether Burke's comments could negatively impact Antropov in his remaining games with the Leafs, Wilson replied: "He's just got to deal with it. What are we supposed to do, lie to the player and turn around and [trade] him? At least with Brian, you know where you stand. I don't think that's a case of calling anybody out."
Antropov rolled his eyes when asked if he can still perform with all his energy for Burke and Wilson.
"Of course I can. I'm a professional athlete and I get paid big money. So, I'll be playing here until whatever point comes that I'm no longer with the Leafs. I'll continue to give this club the best I have on the ice."
A teammate of Antropov's that would love to do the same is defenceman Mike Van Ryn -- sidelined now for the third time this season. Van Ryn injured his left knee when slammed to the boards in Montreal on Saturday. He was limping around yesterday with a compression bandage on the knee, which is black and blue and rather swollen.
An MRI exam on Monday apparently revealed that his ligaments are intact. The injury is likely more of a bone bruise and Van Ryn believes he will be able to start skating again next week.