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Tampa Bay Lightning sits banged-up Zenon Konopka for first time

The Lightning’s Zenon Konopka, battling the Red Wings’ Brad May last week, was a scratch Monday.

Associated Press

The Lightning’s Zenon Konopka, battling the Red Wings’ Brad May last week, was a scratch Monday.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Zenon Konopka prides himself on playing through injuries. But so many hurts have piled up, the Lightning center was scratched Monday for the first time this season.

"He's banged up a little," coach Rick Tocchet said.

Konopka has admitted to a sore neck and left wrist, and he needed stitches inside his left cheek after a fight last week with Chicago's Ben Eager. Still, the decision did not sit well.

"It's in my best interest to have a day off, but it's extremely frustrating," Konopka said. "I'm not going to lie. I'm obviously not happy with it."

"I don't want him to play taped up," Tocchet said. "I don't want to patch him up for every game and every practice. He has to play at a high tempo. … We've got to get him a little rest. A couple of days will help him."

Konopka, 28, with two points, a team-best 135 penalty minutes and a league-high 15 fights, said he would get treatment in the trainers' room during the game and watch on television.

"Mentally, it's going to be pretty hard," Konopka said. "It bugs me taking a day off for injury and maintenance. I haven't been in this position many times. It's a bitter pill to swallow."

"He wants to play. He wants to be there with his teammates," Tocchet said. "But for me, with him, take a step back, not only for his career, he has to get himself healthy."

More injuries: Matt Walker sat out with a lower-body injury sustained Friday in the first period against the Blues. The defenseman said he has issues "in a few spots" but said the injuries are nothing that needed a doctor's attention, X-rays or an MRI exam.

Asked if he had a timetable for return, he said, "I don't know. We haven't gotten to that point yet. It won't be long, though."

Steve Downie played after missing two games. The right wing smashed his head on the ice Dec. 15, when he slipped and fell while throwing a punch at Nashville's Shea Weber.

"I just wasn't feeling right," he said. "My body wasn't feeling right. I took a pretty big hit in that game, but I'm ready to go."

Tired much?: The 12-day road trip had one day without a game, practice or workout; Saturday, when the team traveled about six hours combined by plane and bus from St. Louis to snowy Long Island.

The team, scheduled to get back to Tampa at 2 a.m., had ice reserved for practice today.

"I don't buy the tiredness," Tocchet said. "We've had enough days off. Every team has to go through this, and when you're losing you can't be tired. … You have to be ready to play."

Asked if the last game of a road trip is the most difficult because players are ready to get home, he said: "Not when you only win one out of six."

Tocchet should have said one of seven, the team's streak before Monday's victory, but you get the idea.

Odds and ends: The Lightning has won consecutive games only three times this season and hadn't won back-to-back games in regulation since Oct. 10 and 12 against Carolina and Florida. … Alex Tanguay's assist on Vinny Lecavalier's goal was his 600th NHL point.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning sits banged-up Zenon Konopka for first time 12/21/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 11:02pm]
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