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Ponikarovsky starting to live up to his billing // Toronto Star
He's the only offensive player on the Leafs who hasn't feasted on the power play this season, he's tied for the lead in plus-minus and he's one of the few players on the roster whose trajectory is pointing upward.
Alexei Ponikarovsky can also now call himself a 20-goal scorer in the NHL. Whether he will ever be able to refer to himself as a legitimate power forward remains up to him.
Given the Leafs' near-dead playoff hopes, Ponikarovsky's game-winner with just over two minutes remaining against the New York Islanders was less important than the way he scored it. He got the goal because he went hard to the net and used his ample size and considerable strength to muscle his way into the crease.
"I think the biggest thing for Alexei is he just has to realize the size he's got," said Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who has been playing recently between Ponikarovsky and fellow behemoth Nik Antropov. "I talk to them about it all the time before games. I tell them, `We're three big guys and we should be able to create a lot of chances and draw penalties.'"
After four maddening seasons in which he played the majority of games having no positive or negative impact, Ponikarovsky is finally coming of age. His breakout season this year bodes well for a team that needs all it can get when it comes to being excited about the future. There will be significant on-ice changes for the Leafs next season to be sure, but you can likely put Ponikarovsky's name in pen on the lineup. He's still under contract and will make a modest $725,000 (U.S.) next season.
Coach Pat Quinn, who has been exceedingly patient with both Ponikarovsky and Antropov, thinks Ponikarovsky can be an impact player if he remains focused on the things he does best.
"We know he has the tools to do it — he shoots the puck hard and he has some nice moves," Quinn said. "But even last night, you saw him throwing the puck away by doing things like little drop passes. That shouldn't be part of his game. He should be going to the net."
Ponikarovsky didn't come into this season with any specific goals in mind, but he did realize that at the age of 25, he had to begin having more of an impact.
"Every season I have been trying to accomplish something bigger and prove to myself that I'm capable of something," Ponikarovsky said. "I think it goes with confidence. It seems like things are working out."
The Ponikarovsky-Sundin-Antropov unit was put together again by Quinn eight games ago — Antropov didn't play against Buffalo Monday because of the flu — and the Leafs have won five of the seven games the trio has been intact. In his past five games, Ponikarovsky has three goals and four assists.
"I've played with a lot of different players this season and this is the first time Pat has left me with the same two guys for a while," Sundin said. "I like playing with them. For the past two weeks we've been pretty good and they really give me some room out there."
For the talk show crowd, having Ponikarovsky is another example of how Sundin has been saddled with inferior wingers, but that doesn't bother him.
"Everybody wants to be the coach," Ponikarovsky said.
Страничка Алексея Поникаровсого
на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
27 ноября. Алексей Поникаровский: "В России много "свободного"
льда" // www.khimik.ru
22 декабря. Ponikarovsky more confident - Toronto
27 ноября. Алексей Поникаровский: "В России много "свободного" льда" // www.khimik.ru
22 декабря. Ponikarovsky more confident - Toronto Sun