Tampa Bay Lightning's Zenon Konopka becoming faceoff factor

TAMPA — Zenon Konopka has won 69.2 percent of his faceoffs, good enough for the league lead except that the Lightning center is 22 faceoffs short of qualifying.

Instead, Buffalo's Paul Gaustad led entering Thursday at 69.1 percent.

League rules say players cannot be listed among faceoff leaders unless they have taken at least 15 percent of their team's draws. The Lightning has taken 577, meaning Konopka needs 87.

He has taken 65, winning 45.

"He told me last year he's a better faceoff guy than anyone thinks," coach Rick Tocchet said. "It's not that I didn't believe him, but sometimes you have to move into that role.

"There's probably times I'm going to have to start getting him out there more. He's producing. I'd be crazy not to use him."

Konopka said he began paying attention to faceoffs as a 12-year-old after a coach compiled the stat. As Konopka got older, he realized "being able to take draws meant you got a little more ice time."

How do you win faceoffs?

"For me, it's like raw power," he said. "But there's always a way to beat a guy. There's probably seven ways to win faceoffs. You just have to pick the right one at the right time."

"It would mean a lot" to lead the league, he added, "because of how much emphasis I put on faceoffs all my career."

Even so, he said, he hasn't lobbied Tocchet for more faceoffs.

But Tocchet has a different story.

"He's already bugging me."

Tanguay'S FIRST: Moving Alex Tanguay to a line with C Steven Stamkos and LW Ryan Malone paid off. Tanguay, in his best game of the season, scored his first goal, had two points, was plus-2 and had two shots against Ottawa. He had seven shots in nine previous games.

"It feels good," said Tanguay, who broke a 12-game goalless streak, including last season, with assists from his linemates. "My legs are starting to come back. The key to my game is skating, and Steven just flies … and Ryan is extremely big and extremely good down low. I think we can be a good match. I just have to bring my 'A' game and help them out as much as possible."

The Wright stuff: Rookie LW James Wright played his 10th game, meaning the season will count toward his eventual free agency even if he is sent back to juniors.

"This whole experience has given me the confidence to know that I can play at this level and know I can contribute to the team and not just be a body on the ice," Wright said. "This has been instrumental in helping me along the way believe in myself."

Tampa Bay Fights Cancer Night: About 4,000 members of the bay area cancer community (patients, family, caregivers) were at the game courtesy of the Yerrid Foundation.

Odds and ends: Marty St. Louis’ second-period penalty shot was the 34th in Lightning history. Seven have succeeded. St. Louis is 0-for-5. … St. Louis played his 700th NHL game. He has points in all 10 games this season, the league's longest streak. … Defensemen Lukas Krajicek, Matt Smaby and Paul Ranger (personal) were scratched. … Tocchet said Smaby is over his upper-body injury.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Zenon Konopka becoming faceoff factor 10/29/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 30, 2009 1:11am]

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