Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New Jet's been around

Much-travelled Ponikarovsky reunites with former Leafs linemates

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Drag your finger down the list of teams Alexei Ponikarovsky has suited up for in the last three seasons and an untapped personal sponsorship deal instantly pops to mind.

This guy has moved so much -- the Winnipeg Jets are his sixth squad dating back to 2009-10 -- he should be the national spokesman for Allied Van Lines.

So please allow the man a few moments to reminisce about the days when his hockey roots were firmly entrenched with the Toronto Maple Leafs (2000-01-2009-10) and his linemates/teammates weren't a revolving door of names and faces.

Two of those long-ago linemates -- Nik Antropov and Kyle Wellwood -- are now his teammates again.

We take you back to 2005-06 when Ponikarovsky was a fixture with the Leafs and Wellwood, then a rookie, was moved up to centre the top line with Mats Sundin injured on a trip that featured Antropov on the other wing.

Thinking of getting the ol' gang back together, Alex?

"For sure," Ponikarovsky said with a grin Tuesday, after a session at MTS Iceplex with several Jets and other local NHLers. "Obviously, we're going to juggle lines around and it's the coach's decision who he's going to put you on the ice with and we'll just follow it.

'Good mix'

"It doesn't matter who you are out there with, we've got lots of talent on this team and some good veterans. I think it's a good mix.

"Nik and Kyle together and we played on the same line and did pretty well. Overall, I just want the season to start and see how much damage we can do."

The first thing you notice about Ponikarovsky is how he meets one of the Jets' critical elements from their off-season wish list: he is a towering 6-4, 226 pounds and although his game isn't about banging and crashing in the corners, he is a big man with some touch.

In six of the last seven seasons he has hit double digits in goals, including four seasons eclipsing the 20-goal mark.

Interestingly, the role he'll play with the Jets won't just be about what he brings to the ice, but the experience he could provide in the locker-room. He's been there, done that all over the NHL and learned from some of the most respected men in the game.

"Back in the days in Toronto, we had really good leaders... Mats Sundin, Joe Nieuwendyk and when you play with those guys you learn a lot," Ponikarovsky said.

Ponikarovsky had been pursued by the Jets prior to last season, but opted to join former Leaf boss Paul Maurice in Carolina. Last January, he was dealt to New Jersey for Joe Sova and a draft pick.

When the Jets inquired again when he became a free agent, Ponikarovsky leaned on Antropov for a scouting report on the organization and the city.

"I know Nik from way back, even from when we played at (Moscow) Dynamo (in the late 1990s)," Ponikarovsky said. "We got drafted together by Toronto in the same year and we played a lot together.

"We talked about it, he said it was a great city, a great atmosphere, a good organization and they try to do everything for you outside of hockey and the only thing you have to do is just perform on the ice." Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 12, 2012 0


Updated on Friday, September 14, 2012 at 2:36 PM CDT: Corrects name error

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