Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Burmistrov's heard the boos

Young Russian admits critical headlines leave him 'mad'

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He admitted Monday he is stung by the arrows and darts flung his way but Winnipeg Jets forward Alexander Burmistrov said they will not deter him.

The 21-year-old from Kazan, Russia has been something of a lightning rod for those eager to attack the underachieving Jets.

Burmistrov, with four goals and 10 points this season, said he's not oblivious to the assaults.

"It does bother me, maybe makes me mad for five minutes," the third-year pro said after Monday's practice at the MTS Centre. "Maybe the first time when you read that it's OK, you know for yourself you're doing it for the team right now, different things. You just read it, put it in the past and try not to think about it."

Monday's conversation with the sometimes-unorthodox forward began on the subject of the value of scoring contributions this week from third- and fourth-liners.

Burmistrov's latest assignment is with left-winger Eric Tangradi and natural centre Mike Santorelli.

Jets coach Claude Noel said Monday he put the trio specifically into a shut-down role during a timeout last Thursday when a wild first period broke out with the last-place Florida Panthers.

The Panthers did not score again.

Burmistrov confirmed that's become his newest focus with the team and he said he's ready and willing to do the job.

"Our job right now is to just play our game and play it strong -- don't make a lot of turnovers and just play a smart game. Everyone does want to keep scoring goals and we'll try our best."

Everyone seems to have an opinion on Burmistrov, especially since he spent four games in Noel's doghouse -- and the press box -- in March.

He's had a goal and two assists since he returned to the lineup March 19 but in the 13-game stretch since, he's been an even plus-minus player, with his only minuses in two bad losses, one at home to Washington and the other two weeks ago at the New York Islanders.

But Burmistrov is plus-six on the season and clearly, Noel's trust is rising.

The coach has played the eighth-overall pick of the 2010 draft more than his season average of 15 minutes 14 seconds in each of the last four games.

The critics may not realize offence is not Burmistrov's primary job right now, the young forward said.

"It's pretty tough, especially with me," Burmistrov said. "People start talking about me; I'm a first-round pick and I'm not scoring goals.

"But right now I'm doing another job on our team. I'm still looking to score goals and getting points, that's important, but first thing right now is to think about playoffs and to me it sucks when you've been (on the team) three years and you're not in the playoffs.

"You want to feel this, how this works. I've talked about it with some older guys, some of the Russian guys I've been talking to during the season and they tell me what a different life the playoffs are, what different hockey it is.

"You want to put yourself second right now and work for the team for that right now. It's a different thing. And it's tough for me to read it sometimes in an article, people saying things about me.

"Those people watch different things. When I'm on the ice, I'm working 100 per cent all the time. I try to give everything I have for the team.

"That's the thing right now, I'm doing it for the team."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 16, 2013 D2

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