For many NHL players a game in Toronto is among the highlights of the season. But it's nothing new for Winnipeg Jets forwards Kyle Wellwood and Nik Antropov. Both spent many years with the Maple Leafs, roughly ten for Antropov and three seasons for Wellwood, and playing at the Air Canada Centre isn't exactly a rare event.
"It's not like a big thing for me anymore," Antropov said today after the Jets practised before leaving for Toronto where they play Wednesday. "Now it's just a regular road game."
Antropov, who was traded from Toronto to the New York Rangers in 2009, doesn't know many current Leaf players and isn't feeling too nostalgic about his days in Toronto. When asked if he thought anyone might show up with an Antropov Leaf jerseys, he replied: "I don't look in the stands."
Wellwood, who left Toronto for the Vancouver Canucks in 2008, said he also doesn't know many Leaf players but still gets a kick out of playing at the ACC.
"Everybody likes playing there," he said. "It's always fun to go back there. It's a great place to play."
Wellwood and Antropov have been playing together on the same line for the Jets along with Alexander Burmistrov. The trio have been by far the most productive line for the team, collecting seven points so far which is better than any other line combination.
Part of their success, Antropov joked, was that they speak Russian to each other. Technically only Burmistrov is Russian but Antropov hails from Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, and Wellwood played briefly in Moscow.
"We have to give Wellwood a Russian name," Antropov said. "Something with an 'ov' at the end."
After the game against the Leafs, the Jets play Thursday in Ottawa and then return to Winnipeg for a game against Carolina on Saturday.
The Jets have some injury concerns, although forward Evander Kane practised with the club Tuesday and is expected to play in Toronto. Defenceman Ron Hainsey, who was injured during Monday's game against Pittsburgh, does not appear to be ready for Wednesday. Defenceman Mark Stuart also still seems to be suffering from a shot he blocked near his head during Monday's game. His status is also uncertain.