Anisimov rising to the occasion

Artem Anisimov #42 of the New York Rangers

Artem Anisimov #42 of the New York Rangers controls the puck from Chris Pronger #20 of the Philadelpia Flyers. (Feb. 20, 2011) (Credit: Getty Images)

ANAHEIM -- Artem Anisimov stood ramrod straight, arms extended down toward his waist, fists clenched as if gripping a bar.

"I'm in the first car, like this," he explained, his face in a lopsided half-smile, half-grimace. "I try to raise one hand, then I think, 'No,' said the young Russian forward, who resumed his two-handed stance.

The comical demonstration came after Wednesday's morning skate at Honda Center, as the 22-year-old Rangers center described one of his American passions: roller coasters.

"The adrenaline . . . I love it," said Anisimov, who gleefully described a trip to Six Flags/Great Adventure in New Jersey last summer, where he tabbed the high-speed curves and drops of El Toro as his favorite ride.

On his first-ever visit here this week, Anisimov lamented that he was not able to visit the granddaddy of U.S. amusement parks, Disneyland, a short skate away. "Next time," he vowed.

For the second-year forward, whose NHL career appears to be on a slow and steady climb similar to the journey up a steep roller-coaster peak, all indications are that he'll be back.

Anisimov, a prized commodity whom the Dallas Stars wanted in exchange for Brad Richards on trade deadline day, had 16 goals and 19 assists entering last night's game against the Ducks. One of only five Rangers to appear in every game, he is one of the hotter Blueshirts, with three goals and an assist in past four games.

The team's second-round pick in 2006 has come a long way, both on the ice and off, and the change from last season, when he and forward Enver Lisin -- now back in Russia -- were inseparable, is remarkable.

Anisimov has made great strides in English after taking classes in the summer, and his shyness, especially with the media, has been replaced with a friendly assertiveness. And he now will spar with teammates. Wednesday, while Anisimov was discussing his amusement park exploits, Ryan McDonagh tried to flip a ball of used tape into a wastebasket, and when it stuck to his hand, it narrowly missed Anisimov.

"It went right past here," Anisimov complained, pointing to his lip as McDonagh apologized. "Now I'm going to get mad."

That's a side of the 6-4 Anisimov you don't often see, although he is becoming more engaged on the ice, shoving in scrums and driving to the net.

"On those power moves, he's really learned to use his body to shield the puck and get a shot off," Ryan Callahan said.

Anisimov always has been considered a promising two-way center, and coach John Tortorella has deployed him in more situations -- on the penalty-kill, second power-play unit, key faceoffs and 5 on 5, where he seems to have found a niche between Brandon Dubinsky and Callahan.

If Anisimov maintains this pace, he could reach the 20-goal mark this season; he had just 12 goals and 28 points in his rookie year after an eye-opening AHL season, with 37 goals and 44 assists.

"He continues to grow as a player," Tortorella said. "And he's a terrific kid."

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