MONTREAL — Who would have thought a pair of skates could make so much difference? Not Zenon Konopka.
"It's a huge difference," the Lightning center said. "Even I didn't think it would make that much difference."
But when Konopka on Wednesday against the Sabres tried to play with a borrowed pair, he found, after two shifts, he could not. So after 47 seconds of ice time, including a fight, Konopka was shut down.
It was a disappointing ending to a long, tiring day for the call-up from AHL Norfolk, whose plane did not land in Buffalo, N.Y., until 30 minutes before game time and without the bag that carried his pads and skates.
Konopka wore the shoulder pads of Ryan Malone and shin guards of Gary Roberts, both of whom are injured. A native of nearby Niagara Falls, Konopka said he called to borrow a buddy's skates of similar size.
"But that didn't work out too well," he said.
He tried to use teammate Jeff Halpern's skates.
"I just couldn't skate with skates that aren't mine," Konopka said Thursday. "You just don't have any balance. It feels like you're on ice in running shoes. But fighting would be one way to contribute to the team."
Konopka, in his skates, played and fought Francis Bouillon 2:23 into Thursday's game.
MALONE STILL OUT: Malone missed his fourth game with an upper-body injury he called "nagging" rather than acute but either way is becoming a real pain.
"It's disappointing because we're losing," Malone said. "You want to be out there helping the guys try to battle through it. But if you're not close to 100 percent, you don't want to be out there hurting the team, either."
Malone seemed to be hitting his stride with four goals and nine points in seven games. More ice time from coach Rick Tocchet didn't hurt. Neither did playing with C Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis.
"You're playing with two great players, so the points are going to come," Malone said. "The main thing is you want to see a couple more wins."
GRATTON RELENTS: C Chris Gratton decided to report to Norfolk and is expected to be in tonight's lineup, general manager Brian Lawton said.
ODDS AND ENDS: D Jamie Heward was recalled from Norfolk and was in the lineup. … RW Adam Hall (upper body) and D Mike Lundin also were scratched.