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Tampa Bay Lightning's Zenon Konopka looks for "rugged" game against former team



For the first time since he has been with the Tampa Bay Lightning, feisty center Zenon Konopka will play against his former team, the Blue Jackets, and in their arena to boot. Konopka, who said he still has lots of friends on the Jackets, said he will play a "rugged, risky, physical game."

But he said it with no malice. He did say, though, he wishes he could have gotten more of a shot with the Blue Jackets, with whom he played nine games from 2006-08.

"In their defense, I had a couple of hand injuries, but I would have liked to have gotten a better opportunity here," Konopka said. "So, tonight it would be gratifying if we could take two points from them and to be a part of it."

Konopka, 29, spent most of his time in the organization with AHL Syracuse. He said some of his best friends from those teams are now with Columbus, such as defenseman Marc Methot, center Trevor Frischmon, center Derick Brassard and right wing Derek Dorsett.

"We had a real special bond at Syracuse," Konopka said. "We took a team that was in the basement and made ourselves into a contender. We're still friends. It would be great to compete against them. ... Those guys over there know who I am, and if I didn't come with a rugged, risky, physical game, I think they would be disappointed. I won't disappoint anyone tonight."

Other stuff from the morning skate: Antero Niittymaki gets the start in net. He was pulled in the first period of Saturday's 7-1 loss to the Sabres after giving up three goals on six shots, but only one of those goals was his fault. Said coach Rick Tocchet after that game about pulling Niittymaki, "I was trying to shake our team out of a coma." ... Defenseman Kurtis Foster will play. Foster missed one game after being knocked woozy during the second period Thursday against the Bruins when he was checked from behind by Shawn Thornton and his head hit the glass. But Foster said he did not have a concussion and he joked he did better on his psychological test than his base line score, used to measure the effects of blows to the head and if a player is ready to return. ... Left wing Ryan Malone skated hard this morning but will sit out at least another game, and perhaps Wednesday against the Penguins as well. Malone has missed nine games after an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee. "Just a little sore," Malone said. ... Defenseman Matt Walker skated and is expected to play. He missed two straight practices with what the team called "body maintenance." ... Defenseman Vladimir Mihalik, despite being 6 feet 7, said no one ever asked him to consider basketball as a career, not even after he shot up as a teenager. "Basketball is not a big sport in Slovakia," he said. Mihalik then tried to throw an empty water bottle a few feet into a garbage basket. He hit the rim twice. "That's how good I am at basketball," he said. ... The Lightning plays on Wednesday for the last time in Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena, which will be torn down after the season as the Penguins move into new digs across the street. "I asked for seats already," said Malone, who grew up in Pittsburgh and played for the Penguins from 2003-08. "That would be pretty cool to have three or four seats from there." Malone grew up around the Penguins and Mellon Arena as his dad, Greg, was head scout for the team for 16 years. He is now the Lightning's head pro scout. "For me, it was always just being around the rink when it was empty," Malone said. "Me and my brother running around there. We would run around the rink and jump on the ice after practice. And having a chance to play there and have some success, that was a dream come true for a hometown kid, really." ... Tocchet, too, has ties to Pittsburgh, where he played from 1992-94. He won the Stanley Cup with the team in 1992, and had his best season as a pro in 1992-93 with 48 goals, 109 points and 252 penalty minutes. "The disappointment was I really think that team could have won three or four Cups," Tocchet said. "And then contracts came involved and a lot of stuff came into play, so a lot of factors. I think we could have won four or five Cups." As for the stadium, he said, "It seems like the fans are right on top of you, and the ice was always good. Maybe it was the team we had, but the ice was always good. You felt good every home game because the ice was good. And I needed good ice because I had the snow boots on."        

[Last modified: Thursday, April 29, 2010 12:15am]


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