Lander emerging as a two-way talent
Anton Lander takes a leadership role on the 2012-13 edition of the OKC Barons
Anton Lander prides himself on being a two-way player. It’s that type of play along with his leadership skills that make him an integral part of the success of the Oklahoma City Barons.
“You play offense and defense every game,” Lander said. “Growing up, my coaches stressed the importance of two-way play. That’s the only way I’ve ever known to play.”
It’s a skill that’s paid dividends for the Swede, who is now in second season of playing in North America. For a team that features offensive juggernauts, Lander’s ability to excel at both ends of the ice make him a threat any time he’s in the lineup.
“I think being a two-way player means I have to be strong and fast and at the same time, create something defensively,” Lander added. “It’s hard work, but you just have to stick to the game plan. If you do that, you’ll be in the lineup. Everyone is so good. We have a really good team. You can’t dress everyone, so you have to earn that spot. Every practice, every game, it’s tough. You have to earn that spot.”
Earning that spot doesn’t come easily in Oklahoma City. Lander sat out the team’s first home game of the year on Oct. 19 but has played in the two games since. The team is loaded, top to bottom, and with that type of talent comes high expectations.
The Barons split the season series with the Lake Erie Monsters and downed the San Antonio Rampage in the home opener. It’s easy to expect a lot out of a lineup that features guys like Lander, Magnus Paajarvi, Teemu Hartikainen, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But, as Lander points out, it’s time to start taking that talent and making it count where it matters.
“We’re a real good team, but it’s time to show that,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk about how good we are, but we need to step up and show we’re a good team and start winning games.”
The Barons are only five games into the season, but the team is working to develop chemistry with all the new faces. Most of the team has played together before – either in Oklahoma City, in Edmonton or through other avenues. Lander’s played with these guys before, but it’s a new season and that brings new challenges.
“You have to work on building chemistry,” he said. “Everyone here is such a good player. You see it in practice and games – how hard we work. It’s not that difficult to adjust to new wingers. It’s still the beginning of the year. The more we play together, the better we’ll get.”
Playing in the AHL is tough enough, but when considering the talent that’s playing in the league this year, the American League has a very NHL feel to it. That’s been evident early in the season with the fast-paced play on full display. It’s a pace Lander is comfortable playing and at quite used to, having played 56 games for the Oilers before being loaned to the Barons in February 2012.
“We had camps and practice, and the pace was intense, so hopefully, at this point, everyone is more comfortable with the pace of the game,” he said. “Practice is high speed, too. You get used to it. Everyone’s such a good player; you have to do what you need to in order to be ready for games. I think our coaches do a good job of working with everyone to make sure we’re adjusting how we need to.”
That intensity and the ability to make adjustments will be necessary for Lander this season. With a league that’s this stacked, Lander will need him and his teammates to bring it every night, if the Barons are to repeat the success of last year.
“The goal is to win,” Lander said. “Last year, I was very disappointed when we lost the conference final. We had the team to win. I’d like to win something, and that’s my goal. The first step is to win the (regular-season) conference and go to the playoffs. I want to be a champion.”