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Antropov feels at home in the Big Apple

Tuesday, 04.14.2009 / 1:00 AM / Fresh Starts

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Hotel living suits New York Rangers' wing Nik Antropov just fine right now.

"Hey, I don't mind it," Antropov told NHL.com. "You don't have to clean. You don't have to do anything."

Where Antropov settles come July 1 remains to be seen, but for now he's happy to have a starring role on Broadway as the Rangers prepare to take on the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, TSN).

After being tossed around in trade rumors for what seems like the forever, Antropov finally got moved at this season's deadline when Toronto President and GM Brian Burke shipped the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent to New York in exchange for a second-round draft pick.

Antropov was thrust right into a playoff race with a bunch of new teammates, who, just like him, were still getting used to a new, demanding and vocal coach in John Tortorella.

The 6-foot-6 winger has come out on the other side looking just fine.

"Obviously it's not like when you're starting the season with the team and you're with the same guys the whole season," Antropov said. "It's a little different, but I'm trying to feel, and hopefully the guys in the dressing room feel, like I'm a part of what we're doing right now."

Anyone would have to say yes to that. In 18 games as a Ranger after the March 4 trade, Antropov scored 7 goals and 6 assists while playing a lot of the time on captain Chris Drury's right side.

"Size, initially is what stands out, but he has a great touch for such a big guy…and that's a pretty good combination," Drury told reporters. "We're talking more and more as we play with each other, so it's been a good transition."

The Rangers nearly lost Antropov to a devastating injury when he had a knee-on-knee collision with Boston's Milan Lucic on April 4, but the big guy luckily came away from the incident without any structural damage and he didn't miss a game.

"He's a very important guy for a team that's trying to score some goals," Tortorella told New York-area reporters on April 6. "He's been a pretty good player for us since we traded for him."

Antropov was for a long time the subject of all kinds of trade rumors in Toronto. Since the Leafs are in rebuilding mode and were not even entertaining the idea of re-signing him this summer, he finally was set free from those rumors when Burke traded him.

But Antropov said the rumors hadn't been bothering him of late. He saw firsthand last year that unless you control your own fate with a no-movement clause, there is simply nothing a player can do about them.

"I was rumored to be traded for the last six or seven years and it never happened," Antropov said. "The first two or three years I was kind of like, 'OK, is it going to happen or not?' I was thinking about it, but after that I realized there is nothing you can do about it as a player unless you have a no-movement clause. So, I wasn't worried about it."

He did, however, welcome the change if for no other reason than it got him back into a playoff race. The Leafs finished a point out of eighth in the East in 2006 and 2007 before crumbling to 12th, 11 points removed from the eighth spot, last season.

"To be back in the playoff race is something special," Antropov said. "It's a great atmosphere."

Playing in Madison Square Garden has its advantages, too. Antropov said he never paid much attention to the atmosphere at the famous arena when he played there as a visitor, but now that he's a Ranger he realizes how special the building actually is.

 
"It's nice to see in New York that fans care about hockey," Antropov said. "I'd call it a hockey city."

Even though he's already 29 years old, in a way Antropov feels he's just coming into his own as a player, and it's the perfect time since he's up for a new contract come July 1.

This season was by far his best since he entered the NHL in 1999. Combined between the Leafs and Rangers, Antropov finished with career highs in games played (81), goals (28), assists (31) and obviously points (59).

In 72 games last season he had 26 goals and 30 assists for 56 points, but injuries sapped his chance at making good progress coming out of the work stoppage as he played in 57 games in 2005-06 and 52 the following season.

"Injuries slowed down my process to be a better player in the last few years, but when you play almost all of the games it helps you to get confidence," Antropov said. "I feel that I've come a long way."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com


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