Lander adapting to NHL

Oilers foirward Anton Lander skates during the warmup before playing against the Flames at the...

Oilers foirward Anton Lander skates during the warmup before playing against the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Oct. 20, 2011. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:33 PM ET

EDMONTON - Anton Lander can still hear the sound of the puck ricocheting off the crossbar.

The Edmonton Oilers centre has vivid memories of his final world junior tournament, losing to Russia in the semifinal of last years event.

Yeah thats what I remember, hitting the crossbar in the shootout against Russia, said Lander. It was a tough moment. That moment when I hit the crossbar we lost and we had to play in the bronze-medal game against the USA.

Russia went on to win the tournament in Buffalo, beating Canada in the final with a shocking third-period comeback.

Lander and the Swedes went home empty-handed, falling to the Americans in the bronze-medal game. They were unable overcome the disappointment of losing in the semifinal, where Landers miss proved to be the decisive moment in the contest.

It was disappointing, but when I look back on it, it was a great time, Lander said. We had a great group of guys, but we felt bad that we didnt win.

When I look back the first thing I hear is the sound from the crossbar.

This year Lander will be a casual observer of the tournament, having moved on to play with the Oilers.

The rookie has made a good impression with the club through the first half of the season and is looking forward to improving his game following the Christmas break, which comes to an end Monday as the Oilers travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks.

I think this being my first year, Im learning a lot every day at practice and in each game, Lander said. We have some great leadership on this team and they help me out with whatever I need.

I think its been OK so far, but I have more to go and more to show. But Im learning things every day and every day I try to take another step and learn something new.

Selected by the Oilers in the second round 40th overall of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Lander has solidified a spot centring the teams fourth line. The native of Sundsvall, Sweden, has a goal and two assists in 30 games.

Along with finding his way on the ice, Lander has had to acclimatize himself to a new culture, having played in the Swedish Elite League for the previous four seasons.

That hasnt been too bad, Maggie (Magnus Paajarvi) has helped me out a lot, that has been a big key for me, Lander said. Its good to have someone to speak Swedish with. If youre thinking about something, you can also ask him. But we also have a bunch of other good guys here as well that have helped me a lot this year.

Before I came over, I thought it would be much tougher. But its a great organization and a great team that is helping the young guys out, which has helped me a lot.

Having taken on a similar role with the Oilers that he had as a junior-aged player in the top mens league in Sweden, Lander is, for the most part, making a smooth transition to the North American style of play.

The face-offs have been a big thing for me here, Lander said. You can cheat a lot over here and the guys really take pride in winning the face-off, it doesnt matter where it is. It could be at centre ice and they still want to win it. They are also stronger and bigger guys, so thats one thing I have to work on.

But its great to have (Eric) Belanger and (Shawn) Horcoff here to help me with that.

As the Oilers fourth-line centre, Lander has done a good job taking care of his own end of the ice before venturing forward.

However, heading into the second half of the year, he would like to simplify his game and take a more direct approach to offence.

I want to try to get more pucks to the net, thats one thing I want to work on, Lander said. It starts in practice where you try to score on every opportunity you get. I want to be stronger in the offensive zone for sure.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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