Leaf hater Konopka ready to rumble
BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agecny
|John-Michael Liles of the Toronto Maple Leafs hits Senators Zenon Konopka during first pre-season NHL game between Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto, September 19, 2011. (ALEX UROSEVIC/QMI Agency)
Zenon Konopka and his knuckles will be ready for Saturday’s Round 1 of the Battle of Ontario.
The Senators centre tried to convince coach Paul MacLean he was ready to suit up for Friday night’s season opener in Detroit, but even being a healthy scratch didn’t dampen Konopka’s enthusiasm about facing the Leafs.
With Konopka troubled by a back issue that hampered his training camp, MacLean decided it wasn’t a good idea to put the centre into back-to-back games.
Konopka could have a sparring opponent Saturday — the Leafs will have Colton Orr in the lineup.
“We’ve talked about what I bring to the game and it’s going to be front and centre (Saturday) night,” said Konopka.
“I hated Toronto before I got to Ottawa. It helps that everybody in Ottawa hates Toronto as well.
“We had some rivalries with them last year (in Long Island) and there are a lot of guys on that team that aren’t getting a Christmas card from me and, hopefully, aren’t looking forward to me being in the lineup. I’ve followed the rivalry quite close and it’s a good one.”
Konopka said he didn’t have to agree with the decision to play Stephane Da Costa in Detroit, but respected MacLean’s explanation.
“You want to play in the game. I played 82 games last year. My back was an issue during camp and they were straight up with me. They didn’t think it was the best thing for me to play back-to-back,” said Konopka.
“You don’t want to agree with every decision as a player, but it’s not your job to make a decision. I’m excited for the team. We’ve just got to steal two points out of here”
MacLean said Konopka won’t play every game.
“When we initially signed him, we knew that he wasn’t going to play all 82 games.
“But the role he has with our team is a leadership role, as well as being a physical player who comes to play hard as well as teaching our (young) players how to take faceoffs so that they can get better at it and making sure that they’re prepared for the game every night.”
OFF THE GLASS
Veteran D Sergei Gonchar is going to have to be a lot better than he was on the opening goal by Todd Bertuzzi Friday. The timing of Jared Cowen’s change wasn’t great, but Gonchar didn’t put up a chase. This is the kind of stuff that drives people nuts ... The Senators scratched Swedish rookie D David Rundblad. “David’s here to play on the team, so we don’t expect him just to practise. But we need to work on his defensive game, just to make sure he’s ready,” said MacLean. That meant D Brian Lee was in and partnered with Chris Phillips. The normally quiet Lee didn’t miss a beat when asked about getting a chance to play: “I’m just trying to get a start from last year, but you guys keep helping me remember it,” said Lee, who took a hooking penalty on his first shift.
THIS ’N’ THAT
The Wings had to fly to Denver immediately after their opener to face the Avalanche Saturday. Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said a move to the East would be ideal. “It would make it a lot easier for our team,” said Lidstrom. “Staying pretty much in the same time for all the games, shorter trips, being home a lot earlier and not having to deal with as many West Coast trips as well. It would be a good fit.” ... Didn’t take long for MacLean to get frustrated. He called a timeout at 9:22 of the second period with the Senators looking horrible and moments after Jiri Hudler gave the Wings a 4-0 lead. Ottawa has a long way to go.
THE MOTOR CITY
C Jason Spezza has to be able to bury a perfect feed from LW Milan Michalek in the first. Spezza swung and missed ... They call this place Hockeytown, but baseball was at the forefront after the Tigers knocked off the New York Yankees Friday night. “How about them Tigers?,” asked Detroit coach Mike Babcock before the media could ask a question ... The new numbers on the front of the helmets are there to help with the identification of players by TV and media ... Tomas Holmstrom and Cory Emmerton both hit Cowen in the first. They both had to pick themselves up ... Bertuzzi was a force. He set up the second goal by hammering Phillips to force a giveaway that set up Lidstrom’s effort in the second.
THE LAST WORD
The Joe erupted when Maureen McCrimmon along with daughter Carlin and son Liam — the family of the late Brad McCrimmon — were introduced pre-game. McCrimmon, a Wings assistant from 2008-11, died in the tragic plane crash, with the Lokomotiv hockey team on board, on Sept. 7.