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Antro quietly contributing

Big centre not setting hot scoring pace, but playing excellent 'D' Signs point to Scheifele sitting again

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Nik ANTROPOV'S name was not seen in the official scoring summary when the Winnipeg Jets rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 at home on Friday night.

If that's all you're looking for, you missed a serious element to the Jets' second straight win.

Centring his new combination with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little, Antropov clearly had impact on the game.

He turned out a plus-one and his second-period work that led to Dustin Byfuglien's power-play goal yielded no scoring points but was worth that and more.

"I played with Ladd last year, obviously, but Litts is a new partner for me so there's still a lot of work to do to get used to it," Antropov said Saturday after the Jets went through their paces at the MTS Iceplex, preparing for tonight's visit by the New York Islanders. "Chemistry and stuff like that. But I thought we did a pretty good job defensively, that's for sure.

"We gave up some chances, but that will get better. We've got to get a bit better. We scored the goal but there's been some miscommunication in some areas and we're working on it."

Those are only offensive things, Antropov said, and the centreman whose 33rd birthday isn't that far away strongly indicated he's not above learning a few new tricks.

"In the offensive zone, yes," Antropov said. "In the defensive zone, either Bryan or me can play down low, whoever's the first guy.

"We don't have to try to switch because (either of us) is comfortable playing defence as well.

"In the offensive zone, sometimes I noticed him and me both staying a little high as the third guy. We just have to read off each other and we'll be alright."

The veteran of 752 NHL games has likely done that drill a time or two.

And head coach Claude Noel hasn't been afraid to share just what an easy transition Antropov often makes it.

Certainly the coach has put some trust in him -- Friday it was to the tune of 19 minutes 56 seconds of playing time.

"That line's been good," Noel said. "He's been solid. He's a very dependable player. A lot of your assessment on players is based on trust. If you put a guy out and you're not sure, that's not a good feeling. I don't really have that feeling with him.

"Those are all good things happening. In Antropov's case, he's a really good defensive positional player that can create offence. He's just in really good position."

How good?

"If I was a defenceman, I'd love playing with him in our zone because he's always in the right place," the coach said. "He's always in that short-pass, support position as a centre.

"It's hard not to like those guys. They help you get out of your zone and they help you break it up the ice. What's not to like? He's engaged in the game, playing physical and he's doing a really good job."

Antropov said that in the last two games, both Jets wins and both against big NHL names like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, defence is always the first thought.

"Defence is what wins the games," he said.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

JETS coach Claude Noel was tight-lipped Saturday about lineup matters heading for tonight's home game against the New York Islanders.

But judging by Saturday's practice, it looks to be the same four forward lines, a large hint that 19-year-old 2011 first-round draft choice Mark Scheifele could be watching his second straight game from the press box.

if Scheifele is indeed out again, it will push back the required decision on the rest of his season.

The Jets may play Scheifele two more games before one of two things will happen -- the first year of his contract would kick in or he'd be sent back to Barrie of the OHL.

-- -- --

There was also no indication when No. 2 goalie Al Montoya might get his first start this season.

Tonight, the Jets face Montoya's former team, the Islanders.

"These are all things we're going to manage," was Noel's cryptic answer to that question.

It might be more likely that No. 1 goalie Ondrej Pavelec keeps on playing, though.

The Jets are 2-1-1 after two straight outings in which Pavelec clearly appears to be acquiring his A game. Both were wins.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 27, 2013 B3

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