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Sabres' Antipin excited to return to lineup, happy to be in NHL

EDMONTON, Alberta – It hasn't been an easy transition to North America for Victor Antipin.

The Buffalo Sabres defenseman fell ill with a weight-sapping flu. He's been a healthy scratch more times than anticipated. He's on a losing team after playing for a consistent winner in Russia.

Still, despite it all, Antipin is glad he made the jump to Buffalo and the NHL.

"Yes, of course I'm happy," Antipin said Tuesday. "I like to play here."

For the first time in more than a month, Antipin was actually playing. He returned to the lineup to face the Edmonton Oilers, his first appearance since Dec. 19.

"I've been a long time waiting for this chance," the Kazakhstan native said in Rogers Place. "It's a tough time, but I am ready now."

Antipin watched 13 straight games for the Sabres, sitting some because of illness and others as a healthy scratche. He got his opportunity after Nathan Beaulieu flew back to Buffalo for evaluation for a possible concussion suffered Monday.

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While experience is the ultimate teaching tool, the rookie says he picked up a few tips while watching.

"You can learn a lot by watching the game up top and a different perspective," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "He's got to learn to play the game the way he knows how to play the game. He had some really good games when he's bounced back. He's taken charge down low. He's been assertive, aggressive defending.

"But his puck movement and getting back for pucks and making that first clean pass out of our zone, that's what we're looking for, and also adding onto the rush. He picks his spot really well, so we'd like to see him get up and get involved."

Antipin was a point-producer and puck-carrier for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. The 25-year-old has learned it's not as easy in the NHL, recording no goals, four assists and 23 shots in his opening 24 games.

"I like to play aggressive," Antipin said. "Yeah, of course it's difficult. There's more speed with the players and skill."

The Sabres hope Antipin shows his speed and skill now that he's back in the lineup.

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