Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Lisa McRitchie on 09/09/11 at 02:00 AM ET
Many Oilers fans have waited patiently for this day, and it has finally arrived. Anton Lander has arrived in Edmonton and is settling in. The welcomed Swedish invasion is reaching its new level and will hopefully continue with the addition of Oscar Klefbom soon enough.
Speaking with the media on Tuesday, the first Swede to make the Oilers, Magnus Pääjärvi was eager to speak of his good friend Lander who Pääjärvi of course eagerly anticipates playing with once again.
At training camp last year, Pääjärvi was not alone, but had fellow Swede Linus Omark. The two had not played together before, but were aware of one another. That had to have been of some comfort to both Omark and Pääjärvi, but without a countryman to help or show them around, surely they felt lost and out of place at times.
Unsurprisingly, Pääjärvi recalled “Last year I didn’t really know what to expect, I didn’t know what a camp was, I didn’t know what the testing was, and I didn’t know how to live in Canada. It’s always that new stuff. Now I have an idea of everything so that makes me feel a lot more comfortable and I can even help the guys coming over like Lander, and I want to help them.”
Having spent a full year in Edmonton, Pääjärvi feels more at home with North American culture and food. Everything that was foreign for Pääjärvi will be so for Lander. But in Lander’s case, he will have someone to ask questions, someone to show him around and someone to help him with words and phrases he may not understand.
Why would Pääjärvi feel so strongly about helping Lander? “He’s one of the best guys I know as a human being and as a person. He’s a very good leader. He’s very solid at everything; he can do it, anything. He’s just going to get adjusted over here and stuff like that.”
Since Lander is in Edmonton, host of Oilers Now, Bob Stauffer was quick to have Lander on his program this past Wednesday. Lander spoke with obvious hesitation at times, but was nothing but eager and excited to speak about his time ahead of him. Lander may not have always understood exactly what was being asked of him, but he always got the general gist and this will only improve with time and practice.
So far in Edmonton, Lander is feeling “Really good Maggie has shown me around, some good food stores and some good restaurants. I feel really good to be here.” Music to any Oilers’ fans ears. Lander could have left any statement about being happy or unhappy. Lander could have focused on what they had been doing, but Lander sounds happy to be reunited with his friend Pääjärvi and to be in Edmonton.
According to Lander, he has been skating with the team and working with Simon Bennett from Body by Bennett and he is becoming accustomed to his settings.
Stauffer asked Lander how this season varied from last, “Very different, last year I knew I was going home to Sweden. This year feels more for real. I’m really excited to go for camp.”
Playing for a position on the team is vastly different than playing for experience. Judging from the limited view I had at the Oilers development camp, and from all reports through the rest of the season, Lander looks professional and ready to compete for a spot on the roster.
“If you want to play in the NHL, you have to be better in everything. The big thing had to be my skating. I worked on that now for three years, so it’s getting better. So we will see in this season how it is.”
Although Lander was nowhere near Edmonton, he was quite interested in following his countrymen’s experiences with the Oilers and with North American hockey. “I look a lot. I saw a few games, the time difference is so big, but I’m watching the highlights of games. Of course these are a lot of my friends, so I try to see how it goes there in the league.” Although highlights do not always tell the full story of an individual player’s game, they are certainly better than nothing, and if nothing else would help to give Lander some indication not only of where Lander and Omark were in terms of their playing skills, but also the rest of the team. How disappointing it must be in many ways for Lander to travel to North America to play for a two time last place team. However, there are glimmers of hope and Lander is a big part of that according to many Oilers fans.
Of course Lander does not have a given spot on the Oilers’ roster and it seems more likely than not that Lander will begin his season in the AHL, as Omark did last year. “I have to do what I have to do to play on the Oilers. So if they want me to go there to play a few games, then yes, I do that.”
One of the big questions Stauffer asked Lander about was food in Canada versus back home. “Pretty big difference. It’s hard to explain why, but it’s a big difference.” Back home Lander enjoys meatballs and chicken, Ryan Jones will love that, as even now he refers to Omark and Pääjärvi as the meatballs. Lander is finding food he enjoys in Edmonton, “All of the steaks and the meats, they’re really good over here.”
This week, Pääjärvi has been introducing Lander to everything. “We’ve been workouts, and we go to the mall and Maggie has helped me find my ties with my shirts. We don’t use that in Sweden so I have to learn how to use that here. He was laughing with me seeing my old ties. We’ve been able to hang around and see some stuff, so he’s been taking care of me a lot.”
Lander is off to the Prospects Tournament in Penticton this weekend. All games will be broadcast on the Oilers’ webpage; hockey isn’t too far off my friends. The first game will be against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday night at 8:30 MST.
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