Tampa Bay Lightning's Zenon Konopka would be leading the league in faceoffs except ...
So, let's consider Zenon Konopka for a moment. Tough guy, once told me he doesn't mind fighting, as in he doesn't hate doing it. Fourth-line scrounger. But, and here's the kicker, a hell of a faceoff guy. Konopka, a center, has won 70.2 percent of his draws (40 of 57). That would leads the league, but Konopka is not listed among the leaders because he hasn't taken enough faceoffs.
League rules say players must take at least 15 percent of their team's draws before they can be listed. With the Lightning having taken 518 total faceoffs, Konopka would need 78 to be among the leaders.
Right now, Buffalo's Paul Gaustad leads the league with a winning percentage of 69.2 (83 for 120).
What would it mean for Konopka, who is getting his first real shot at the NHL, to be listed among the league leaders? "It would mean a lot because of how much emphasis I put on faceoffs all my career," he said. "It's something, definitely, I want to get to."
Konopka said he first got into being a good faceoff man when he was 12 years old and his coach kept the stat. He had the same coach when he was 15, and when he began playing junior hockey, he said, he realized "Being able to take draws meant a little more ice time, you know, late in a game, penalty kill, power play."
What's the key to winning faceoffs?
"For me, it's like raw power," he said. "There's always a way to beat a guy. There's no guy that can't be beat. You've just got to figure out a way. There's probably seven ways to win faceoffs. You just have to pick the right one at the right time."
Konopka said he hasn't yet asked coach Rick Tocchet to get out for more draws, but Tocchet said, "He's already bugging me."
Tocchet said it might not be a bad idea.
"You know, there's probably times now I'm going to have to start getting him out there more. He's producing, and I'd be crazy not to use him."
Other tidbits from practice: Tocchet said Mike Smith will be in goal Thursday against the Senators. ... Defenseman Matt Smaby (upper-body), hurt on a questionable hit while he was with AHL Norfolk, has been cleared to play, though he likely won't against Ottawa. ... As for playing the Senators, who beat Tampa bay 7-1 on Oct. 15, Tocchet said, "Obviously, when you get spanked by a team, you're looking for some guys to react a little better than they did in Ottawa. But I think we've righted the ship a little since then. I think we're a little more confident." ... Speaking of faceoffs, the Lightning enter Wednesday's game second in the league at 54.2 percent, behind the Sharks at 57.1 percent. Center Steven Stamkos is the highest-rated Lightning player at 56.6 percent, good for 13th in the league.