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Another Stewart brother finding success

For years, Norm Stewart has mastered the art of keeping one eye on one hockey-playing son and the other eye on the other.

The task has become significantly more challenging in recent days, though, as Stewart risks missing a goal seemingly every time one of sons hits the ice.

It is a nice problem to have, joked Stewart. "It started 17 years ago. I'm enjoying every minute. I'm a third eye," the proud parent told ESPN.com earlier this week.

In recent days, the task has meant some frenzied channel juggling with son Chris in Colorado and older sibling Anthony making his mark in Atlanta.

"I think he changes [the channel] in between shifts, so he'll try to catch my shift and his shift," explained Anthony, a winger for the Thrashers. "So it was good that I was on the West Coast last week so he could catch the double-header.

"[Chris and I] talk every day, we text, we BBM, we've got a little running joke with who's leading the goal-scoring race right now," Anthony, the big brother of six siblings, told reporters this week. "It's great. It's great that he's scoring and I'm getting some goals here and there and both teams are being successful. That's the main thing."

The fact Chris is off to an impressive start in Colorado isn't all that surprising. The younger of the two boys, Chris was the 18th overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft. Last season during his sophomore campaign, he exploded with 28 goals and 64 points as the Avalanche surprised pretty much everyone by surging into the playoffs.

Yet the path followed by Anthony has been decidedly more arduous, even if the two have combined for nine goals as of Thursday morning (Chris, who turns 23 next week, leads the way with five). Selected with the 25th overall pick in the 2003 draft, Anthony has needed more time to find this kind of NHL groove.

Up until this season, the 25-year-old had managed just four goals in 105 games. The fact he has equaled that mark in just six contests with Atlanta speaks to equal parts opportunity and determination.

"It's been a hard couple of years, especially being up and down in the minors," Anthony said. "When you feel you can play and you're in the NHL on a Friday night and you're playing AHL on the Saturday and back on Monday, that definitely hurts with the confidence and you sort of get down on yourself.

"But I've been saying since day one that I'm a firm believer in timing and where you are. If you keep working hard, your opportunity's going to come and it's come early, and you've just to got run with it and you can't be looking back.

Last season, opportunity knocked in the form of Rick Dudley, the man who had originally drafted Stewart in Florida. Dudley told the Scarborough, Ontario, native he wanted Stewart in Atlanta, where Dudley was about to move into a full-time GM role with the Thrashers. Stewart didn't get a shot with the Thrashers last season, but he did have a strong playoff for the team's AHL affiliate in Chicago, scoring nine times in 13 games.

"He believed in me almost more than I believed in myself and said that I'm going to have a role here and that [I was] going to get your opportunities," Stewart said.

That opportunity has come this season courtesy of new coach Craig Ramsay, who liked Stewart's size and skating ability in training camp. Stewart, along with big center Chris Thorburn, has been handed additional responsibilities with the revamped Thrashers.

"There's a lot of pressure on someone who has been a first pick, there's no question about it," Ramsay said. "They see themselves in a different light, they have been seen by management in a different light, and what happens is [if] they're not a first-line player right off the bat, now you're a failure. That's not the case at all. He has to find out what it's like to play in the league, he has to find out how he can respond to various roles that he's been put into."

The key for Stewart is not to take anything for granted.

"You have to stay focused. I talked to him and I talked to Thorburn about the fact that they're playing in much larger roles. They're important cogs in this team," Ramsay said. "They've demanded more ice time, they've demanded different situations than they've had in the past. They've earned it. But they must understand the responsibility that comes with that, and that's to do it on a game-by-game basis, on an every-night basis and, even more importantly, on an every-shift basis. You can't be one of those top guys and take time off."

If Stewart does continue to pay attention, there is no doubt he's going to make life more difficult for his channel-juggling dad. But that's never a bad thing, is it?