Poni's stock rising

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:02 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Alexei Ponikarovsky has been around Toronto long enough to roll with the challenges of playing in a hockey-mad market.

So after scoring his team-high 14th goal last night, the big forward acknowledged that he could either be enhancing his trade value or securing his future with the Maple Leafs thanks to what is shaping up as the most productive season of his career.

LOTS OF FRIENDS

"It's both," Ponikarovsky said after the 4-1 loss to the Flyers in which the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder from the Ukraine scored the lone Leafs goal. "I can only control what I do on the ice. I can't control (how management looks at it.)

"It has been my home for the last five or six years now. I work out (in Toronto) in the summer and have lots of friends there."

Like most Leafs players who have been mentioned in possible trade talk, Ponikarovsky has no desire to leave the team that selected him with its fourth choice (87th overall) in the 1998 draft. He met his fellow Ukrainian wife in the city and started a family in Toronto, all the while becoming accustomed to the lifestyle of a big-time player.

But with 14 goals in 42 games playing on a line mostly with Matt Stajan and Nik Antropov, the easy going 28-year-old is becoming one of the Leafs' more reliable scorers. Ponikarovsky's previous high was the 21 goals he scored in each of the 2005-06, and '06-07 seasons. His 30 points thus far also have him well on his way to besting the 45 he accumulated two seasons ago.

MUM ON GOALS

"I don't talk about (reaching) any goals," he said. "I have my own goals in my head for what I think I am capable of."

Last night, he evened the score at 1-1 early in the third period when he parked himself in front of Flyers goaltender Marty Biron then shoved a nifty backhand between his own legs into the empty net. It was Ponikarovsky's third goal in the past four games.


Videos

Photos