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Tampa Bay Lightning's Zenon Konopka fights with a purpose

TAMPA — Lightning C Zenon Konopka has a league-high 32 fights, more than seven teams.

He also is two behind Krzysztof Oliwa, whose 34 for the Devils in 1997-98 are the most in the past 12 seasons. The Web site says the season record is 39 by Paul Laus in 1996-97 for the Panthers.

"Did he say he's trying to break it?" Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said of Konopka.

With two games left, that would be a stretch.

"You show up and play hard every night, and whatever happens, happens," Konopka said.

Despite his league-high and team-record 260 penalty minutes, Konopka is not a gratuitous fighter. He said he takes pride that his bouts spark the team or defend teammates, and he rarely gets an instigator.

"It always has somewhat of a purpose," he said. "That's a big part of me doing my job, doing it at the right time so you're not hurting the team, you're helping."

He wears the scars, including a mangled right pinkie knuckle he said has been torn open five times and might require surgery after the season.

Konopka, 29, has two goals and four points and is getting penalty-kill time. He has won 61.8 percent of his faceoffs, though he hasn't taken enough to be among the league leaders, and is the kind of free spirit teams need.

Konopka will be a free agent after the season, and Tocchet said, "He's someone you want in that locker room. … His skill level is there. He just has to find a little bit more. There's a lot of people who would like to have a guy like that. He's a great teammate and a great guy to coach."

SCARY MOMENT: D Andrej Meszaros skated off the ice with 5:13 left in the second when hit on the right side of his throat by Erik Karlsson's slap shot. Unable to breathe, he said, and with a bad headache, he sat down in the hallway leading to the locker room, and EMTs ran across the ice with a stretcher.

But Meszaros shortly regained his breath, walked himself to the locker room and played the third.

"I wanted to go back and help the team," he said. "I'm still not feeling 100 percent. I'm losing my voice. I can't really talk much."

FOSTER FOR MASTERTON: The Tampa Bay chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated D Kurtis Foster for the Masterton Trophy, given for perseverance and dedication to the game.

Foster, 29, was nominated last season for playing 10 games for the Wild after rehabilitating from a 2008 broken leg. This season, Foster has eight goals and career highs of 32 assists and 40 points in 69 games.

"Just to come back and play a full season, play the most games I've played in a year, knock on wood, it's just kind of satisfying with all the hard work I put in," Foster said.

ODDS AND ENDS: C Blair Jones was sent to AHL Norfolk. … D Victor Hedman played after missing three games with a hip flexor but left in the second with what he said was a minor upper-body injury. … D David Hale (ankle), D Matt Lashoff and D Matt Smaby were scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Zenon Konopka fights with a purpose 04/08/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 9, 2010 12:33am]
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