Konopka a real fighter

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Unfortunate for Zenon Konopka and fans of the former 67's captain that he was unable to participate (high ankle sprain) in last night's visit by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to the Corel, er, Whichamacallit.

It would have been a special stop for him in an unlikely NHL rookie season, to be sure.

Never drafted, the scouting report on Konopka was always something like "can't skate, can't shoot, can't score ... all he can do is play."

Indeed, the heart, courage and work ethic you'd love to see your son develop has led Konopka to a job as the Ducks' occasional fourth-line centre. In 23 games with the big team, he has averaged 7:18 of ice time, during which he has registered four goals, three assists, 48 penalty minutes and a minus-4 rating.

Anyway, Konopka is apparently also a pretty good scout/prognosticator, as prior to last night's game he predicted to Sun blogger/hockey guru Chris Stevenson that Brian McGrattan and Todd Fedoruk would engage in an early bout.

"Fedoruk," said Konopka, "is one of my Top-5 fighters in the league."

Sure enough, McGrattan wasted no time in getting back on the horse he was knocked off by a Derek Boogaard right in Minnesota earlier this week. Three seconds after Bryan Smolinski scored the first goal ever at the Whatsitsname -- 2:22 into the opening period -- McGrattan and Fedoruk christened the new centre-ice logo with a marathon tilt that featured each large man tossing about 20 punches and landing at least half.

The just-turned 10-year-old barn off Palladium Dr. has witnessed many a brawl -- and that very well may have been the best.

"It was a dandy," agreed Rick Dudley, the former Senators GM who now scouts for the Blackhawks, during the first intermission. "It was certainly one of the longest I've seen.

"I saw one in Columbus with Fedoruk, where he got the best of (Jody) Shelley and threw more punches than he did (last night). But this one was a very good fight."

Dudley, who did some scrapping of his own early in his playing career, says McGrattan has dramatically improved his fighting the last couple of years. For a guy who'll hit you as hard as a Mac truck, two of McGrattan's best assets are his stamina and his ability to take a punch. Against Fedoruk, he went down early, seemingly landing on his face. But he bounced right back up before the linesmen could intervene.

"The reason (Bob) Probert was so good, he never got tired," said Dudley. "I've seen that kid (McGrattan) take some punches and come right back at you. He has two things going for him: No. 1, he's a student of the fight game, he watches fights and he makes himself better. No. 2, he's got the big heart."

And last night, that big heart earned him a very big ovation at the Thingamabob.

Shopping Around:

Jason Spezza drew a penalty on his first shift back from a torn chest muscle, but not in typical fashion. His blind, backhand pass went right to Anaheim's Andy McDonald at the Sens' blue line, and McDonald's shot on goal arrived about the same time as Teemu Selanne was bowling over Dominik Hasek and earning two for goalie interference ... Those of us who have J.S. Giguere in a hockey pool were thinking trade after Ottawa's first goal. Smolinski's low, not especially hard wrist shot from the half-boards wasn't screened or deflected or aimed at a corner. "He just kind of surprised me," Giguere said later. "There was a guy behind the net and a guy in the slot. I wasn't sure which guy he was going to pass to." Ooops ... Giguere got payback on Smolinski two minutes into OT, robbing him from point-blank range.

Between Periods:

For now, we're going simply with The Bank as the nickname for Scotiabank Place. And we like this reasoning of our pal, Sun entertainment editor Drew McAnulty, the best "That way you can tell the wife you're going to The Bank, and when you return four hours later, she'll be amazed at how fast the tellers have become."

Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

Say this for Columbus defenceman Bryan Berard -- after spending the first 40 games of his season compiling a minus-23 mark, he is finally a positive ... Unofficially, Sportsnet's Ian Mendes is leading TSN's Brent Wallace 15-14 in a battle of network reporters neither realizes he's in. That's a Sun scoop, guaranteed.


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