NEW YORK — Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said he did not send Zenon Konopka onto the ice to fight against the Rangers.
Still, it was interesting Tuesday to see RW Marty St. Louis skate off almost immediately after the opening faceoff and Konopka, the league's leader in fights and penalty minutes, skate on.
Ten seconds into the game, Konopka and New York's Aaron Voros were throwing punches.
"I told Konops to play hard," Tocchet said. "After that, it was between the both of them. He wasn't going to go tap somebody on the shoulder. He's going to play hard, and they went; no big deal."
"I wasn't going out there to fight him," Konopka said. "I was just going out there to play hard and play the body. We kind of collided. I thought it was a good time to get it going."
Voros had quite an evening. He had only 8:08 of ice time but scored his first goal of the season, showed restraint in the third period when Konopka wanted to fight again (a sequence that got Konopka a 10-minute misconduct), and needed three stitches over his right eye after losing a fight with Ryan Malone.
All part of the game, Voros said.
"I imagine St. Louis didn't decide, 'I'm going to get off the ice now.' It was a tactic," he said. "It's a good way for both teams to get into it."
"That is part of the game and AV responded," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
Better than the Lightning.
"Konopka was trying to get our team to be ready," Tocchet said.
Instead, he added, "It put some guys in a coma."
RANGER CLOSER? Tocchet said there could be an update coming on the return of D Paul Ranger, away from the team since Oct. 23 because of a personal matter.
Scuttlebutt began about 10 days ago that his return was in the works, though it was unclear if Ranger first would play conditioning games for AHL Norfolk.
SMITH UPDATE: G Mike Smith (neck strain) skated the past two days and is scheduled to practice with the team today, trainer Tommy Mulligan said.
Smith has missed four games since being run over Jan. 12 by Washington's Brooks Laich.
"Nothing has gone backwards, so there is improvement," Mulligan said, and added, "There is no concern about a concussion."
BENCH WARMER: Don't expect G Dustin Tokarksi to start a game as he backs up Antero Niittymaki. Tocchet said it would be interesting to see how Norfolk's No. 1 would do but said a playoff push is no time to make evaluations. Even so, he said, "This is valuable. He's up right now spending time with (goaltenders coach) Cap Raeder. He's going day-to-day life in the NHL, traveling, practicing.
"The first practice, the speed of the puck, the speed of the players, you could tell he was, like, 'Wow, what a difference.' Now he's caught up, so this is big for him, even just practicing with the NHL guys."
ODDS AND ENDS: Niittymaki said daughter Alina, born six weeks premature on Dec. 26, and 5 pounds, 3 ounces, is out of the hospital, at home and "getting fat." … D Matt Walker, D David Hale, and LW Todd Fedoruk (knee) were scratched.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.