The Rangers' Russians A to Z: Big A Has Career Year, Nicky Z Stuck at 99

Martin AverySenior Writer IApril 20, 2009

WASHINGTON - APRIL 15:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals skates with Nik Antropov #80 of the New York Rangers during Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, 2009 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

Three Russians have been getting a lot of attention during the first round NHL playoff series between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals. The Rangers have Nik Antropov, from Kazakhstan, and Nik Zherdev, from Kiev, while the Capitals have Alexander Ovechkin from Moscow.

Ovechkin is the prime-time attraction, the superstar for the Capitals. Antropov has been a huge hit in New York since joining the team at the NHL Trade Deadline after playing in Toronto with the Maple Leafs for years alongside Mats Sundin. Zherdev, No. 13 for the Rangers, needs one goal to hit the 100 mark.

Ovechkin scored more goals than anyone in the NHL this season, but has not yet scored in the playoffs this year. Antropov got a goal in Game One of the playoffs. Zherdev is stuck at 99.

The Rangers got a bit of a scare in practice when star goalie Henrik Lundqvist appeared shaken up after a collision with Nik Antropov during a drill, recently. Antropov got hurt in a knee-to-knee hit with Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins at the end of the season.

Lucic is serving a match penalty for striking center Maxim Lapierre of the Montreal Canadiens in the face with his stick and gloves at 15:28 of the third period.

Lucic got 17 penalty minutes (two for roughing, five for fighting, 10-minute misconduct) but after the game it was changed to a match penalty, triggering the automatic suspension pending a hearing with NHL officials.

Antropov, at 6'6", is known as Big Nik, with the Rangers, and Zherdev, 6'2", is known as Nikky Z. Zherdev had 10 goals in his first year in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets, 26 in his second year in Columbus, and 23 this year with the Rangers, for a total of 99.

While Antropov played with Kaztsink-Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk in the second-tier of the Russian Hockey Super League, in a game against Iceland in which he scored eleven goals and twenty-six points. Antropov captained the Kazakhstan national team.

Originally from Kyiv, Ukraine, Zherdev played for the HC CSKA Moscow when he was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets. In a controversial move, he left for the NHL half way through the 2003–04 season.

Zherdev's ice time has steadily diminished since the beginning of March. On Saturday he played 10 minutes 15 seconds. He had three minutes of PP time and 10:15 overall.
 
He had three shots Saturday, no hits, no blocked shots and obviously is down to third-line status. Zherdev hasn't scored a goal since March 26 against Atlanta

The 2005-06 NHL season was a breakout year for Zherdev, who scored 27 goals and notched 27 assists in 73 games. He was the Blue Jackets' most potent offensive threat while Rick Nash recuperated from injury, and played most of the season on the team's first line.

Zherdev represented Russia at the 2002 U-18 World Junior Championships and finished the tournament with six goals, five assists, 11 points in eight games (third best on his team behind Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin).

He was named captain of Team Russia for the 2004 World Juniors, but did not play after departing for the NHL.

The Rangers just can't wait for Nicky Z to get goal No. 100 and they hope it's in the next game against Ovechkin and the Capitals.

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