Anton Lander faces a part-of-the-business element other Barons have faced during the four years the Edmonton Oilers’ American Hockey League afilliate has played in Oklahoma City.
Lander might be playing his final game for the Barons at the Cox Convention Saturday night if they don’t rally in a first-round playoff series against the Texas Stars, the Western Conference’s top seed.
“It’s not anything you can control,” said Lander, who will be a free agent after the season. “Of course, I have my opinion on things when it comes to offers from both here and in Europe, but it’s not anything I’m thinking about right now. I’m looking at the right-here, right-now.”
The Stars lead the best-of-5 series 1-0 after rallying for a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 on Wednesday at the Cox Center.
It’s not an elimination a game but essentially is a must-win game for the Barons. A loss Saturday and OKC would be forced to win three consecutive games next week at the Cedar Park Center.
“Playing in the playoffs is the best part of the game, the reason we all love to play hockey,” said Lander, the team captain. “My only focus is on the next game Saturday night.”
In his third and final year of his entry-level contract, Lander’s future will be in limbo heading into the off-season.
“Every hockey player goes through it,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “You have to be patient and see what’s out there. Things sometimes unfold quickly, but sometimes they drag on. Hockey players, all professional athletes, know that’s part of it.”
The Oilers’ second-round pick five years ago, the one criticism on Lander has been an inability to contribute offensively at the NHL level.