Antropov ignores boos

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

Nik Antropov has a short message for Maple Leafs fans, but it is not very sweet: Shove off.

"To be honest with you, I don't really care about the fans right now," the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Leafs forward said. "All I care about is my family, my teammates, my friends, my team. Some fans are smart and some fans are not smart. I can't comment on that.

"I just don't understand what the criticism is for. What did I do wrong?"

Just four days after drawing cheers by scoring a pre-season goal against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday, Antropov was booed mightily during the shootout following a 4-3 victory against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

He had erred on several good scoring chances during the third period, including an opportunity at an open net that would have given the Leafs a 5-2 lead had he scored.

"It was just one night when there were lots of chances and one of those nights when you can't score," said Antropov, who has plans to become a Canadian citizen.

"It can happen to anybody."

Antropov has been criticized in the past, mostly because the majority of observers don't think he has lived up to the expectations placed at the feet of someone who was taken 10th overall by the Leafs in 1998.

Though Antropov has had his share of injuries, he still has not had more than 16 goals or 45 points in one season.

At 25, Antropov should be moving past the developmental stage in his career and into one where he is a vital cog for the Leafs. But he's not there yet.

Leafs coach Pat Quinn, however, refuses to call this season a make-or-break year for Antropov and called the fans' booing of the latter two nights ago "unwarranted."

Antropov spent the lockout last season playing for a couple of teams in the Russian Hockey League. In 36 games, he had six goals and 18 assists and 50 penalty minutes.

"I think playing in Russia really helped," Antropov said. "I played over 30 minutes a game and I want to bring that (experience) to the NHL now."

Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who played on a line with Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky on Thursday, thought fans at the Air Canada Centre went overboard with their jeers.

"I thought he had a good game," Sundin said.

"I told him after the game it's better to save (the goals) for (the) real season. He created a lot of chances."


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