Antropov sits and waits

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Nik Antropov has been through plenty of anguish this season on both sides of the Atlantic.

The weary looking Maple Leafs forward is back from his father's funeral in Khazakstan but is on injured reserve, uncertain of his return to the lineup from a suspected tear of the lateral right meniscus, limiting him to six games.

The good news is the problem is not related to the reconstructive surgeries the 25-year-old has undergone on both knees.

He twice has skated with the Leafs since arriving home.

"(The pain) is better than it used to be, but I still have some discomfort," Antropov said yesterday after he worked out at the Air Canada Centre.

"I thought it would be settled down. But the doctors say that I don't have need to have surgery, just take care of it."

His participation in contact drills is pending further medical consultation. But Antropov, who had opened the season on Mats Sundin's wing, is anxious to get back to regular duty.

"It's my second year that I had started pretty good with two goals and an assist," said Antropov, who had a pair of goals in his first three games in 2003-04.

Health and inconsistency have troubled Antropov since the Leafs surprised the National Hockey League in the 1998 draft and made the 6-foot-6 unknown forward their first pick, 10th overall.

BACK HOME

Brought up in a disadvantaged area of Khazakstan, his father Alexander's passing from a heart attack brought him back to his hometown of Ust-Kamenogorsk for the first time in seven years.

"He was having heart problems for the past two or three years and was in hospital about (six months)," Antropov said. "He visited me here just twice and that (long separation) is the most disappointing thing. Family is important. It was nice to get back there.

"The Leafs really took care of me first class. It happened on a weekend and I had to get a visa for my kids because they have Canadian passports. The Leafs found (the proper officials) at the Khazakstanian consulate, so I'm very appreciative."

Alexei Ponikarovsky, the only member of Antropov's opening night line not to be hurt so far, had the winning goal on Monday against the Florida Panthers. He rose from the fourth line under coach Pat Quinn's re-shuffled deck to play wing with Eric Lindros.

Size and speed are not an issue with the 6-foot-4 Ukrainian, but 15 goals in 128 career National Hockey League games doesn't strike fear in the hearts of goaltenders.

"Pony can really skate when he gets that puck in the middle of the ice," Lindros said.

"He's one of those players that when you think the play is about to evaporate, he has the ability to turn on the juice. He has one of the best wrist shots on our squad."


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