Jets counting on Antropov

Jets forward Nik Antropov (left), seen here with Mark Stuart after unveiling the team's new...

Jets forward Nik Antropov (left), seen here with Mark Stuart after unveiling the team's new jerseys, is expected to be a key offensive contributor this season. (QMI Agency/Chris Procaylo)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:52 PM ET

WINNIPEG - The first thing you should know about Nik Antropov is that heís healthy.

The towering Winnipeg Jets forward has moved past the lingering hip pain that dogged him last season, where his production dipped to 16 goals and 41 points in 76 games with the Atlanta Thrashers.

While Antropov wasnít using the injury as an excuse, itís evident that having hip surgery last summer certainly hampered his play.

ďItís in the past already, so it doesnít really matter,Ē Antropov said Tuesday after the new Jets jerseys were unveiled at 17 Wing Winnipeg. ďIím looking forward to the season ó Iíve had a healthy summer and last year I was recovering from the (hip) injury. Itís going to be a great year.Ē

Talk shifted to Antropovís expectations for himself.

Since much of the talk surrounding this Jetsí team focused on where the goals might come from, it should be noted that Antropov had seasons of 26 and 21 goals with the Toronto Maple Leafs and just two seasons ago (when healthy) managed 24 goals and a career-best 43 assists and 67 points for the Thrashers.

That prompted the question of whether Antropov might actually hit the 30-goal plateau during the upcoming season?

ďIím not going to call the numbers, but Iíll do the best that I can. Iím looking forward to the season and weíll go from there,Ē said Antropov. ďIf you donít expect anything from yourself, you shouldnít be here.Ē

Much has been made about how most former Thrashers are going to need time to adjust to the scrutiny that comes with playing in a hockey-mad market, but Antropov knows first-hand what itís like to play in a rabid Canadian city after spending the better part of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

ďIíve been in the same situation when I played for the Leafs and itís great to be back on Canadian soil, where people know and care about hockey,Ē said Antropov, who spent much of the past summer training in Toronto. ďItís great. People care and thatís the most important thing.Ē

Antropov is expected to be a key contributor to the Jets this season.

ďWhat canít be lost in this is that when players get a chance to play in front of buildings like (ours) and in front of excited fans, they get excited as well,Ē Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldyaoff said Tuesday.

With training camp still a few weeks away, Cheveldayoff said he isnít sure whether Antropov will be used on the wing or at centre.

ďWeíll see how things play themselves out over training camp ó the coaches will talk it through,Ē Cheveldayoff said Tuesday. ďObviously, he played wing for the most part last year, but having the ability to have someone with his size and his abilities in the middle would be a very good thing.Ē


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