NEW YORK - Surely, this isnít what the NHL had in mind when it comes to the current crackdown on illegal hits.
Senators centre Zenon Konopka, who has a reputation for being a troublemaker during his career, was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct Saturday for what was barely a hit on New Yorkís Artem Anisimov.
The Madison Square Garden cheered loudly after the hit and Anisimov needed help getting up, but there was no way the punishment didnít fit the crime. As a matter of fact, it may not even have been worthy of a minor penalty. Anisimov was back on the ice two shifts later.
A longtime New York-area hockey writer leaned over in the press box and wondered aloud if that would have even been called 10 years ago. No, it wouldnít have.
Referees Dennis Larue and Brad Watson should be forced to explain to VP of player safety Brendan Shanahan why they made the call that resulted in two goals for the Rangers during their five-minute man-advantage.
Surely there wonít be any supplemental discipline from Shanahan for this incident. Konopka got that penalty because of the name on his back.
Konopka said he was stunned by the call.
ďI know Iíve led the league in penalty minutes but Iíve never had a problem with an illegal hit,Ē said Konopka. ďItís not a good feeling to come in here and have them score two power-play goals. Itís great that my teammates picked me up.
ďCall it whatever it is. I donít know. Itís not for me to decide. It was definitely a crushing blow to me. Itís something I donít agree with.Ē
READY FOR BATTLE
Sunday nightís Battle of Ontario will be the only this season in which the Senators are going to have a chance for a fair fight. When the NHL schedule came out in the summer, centre Jason Spezza circled the dates on the calendar for the games against his hometown Maple Leafs because he always likes the chance to get together with his family. But Spezza was surprised after taking a second look when he noticed all six of the games against the clubís archrival are on the back end of back-to-back games and Sundayís visit by the Leafs is the only one where both teams are in action the previous day. That means the Leafs are going to be rested and ready ó just as they were when the two teams met Oct. 8 at the Air Canada Centre ó every time the Senators face them the rest of the season. Saturday, the Leafs hosted the Penguins at home. ďItís probably something quirky that happened in the schedule, but I know it doesnít look like it,Ē said Spezza. ďIím sure itís not done on purpose, or you hope it isnít done purposely, but I think it was just the way the schedule was made. Itís tough.Ē
THE MORNING SKATE
The Senators are working on getting a new scoreboard at Scotiabank Place, especially since theyíve experienced issues with the old one at lately. Sources say the Senators hope to get a new one in place for the all-star weekend in January, but there are ďno guaranteesĒ it will be done in time. The club has a long break in the schedule next month and it would take about a week to install ... The new MSG ó in the midst of a $900-million renovation ó is confusing to get around. The building had 1,200-1,800 workers doing 24-hour shifts all summer to complete the first of three phases ... That Filip Kuba looked like a scoring machine until a goal was credited to Chris Neil in the first period. The puck deflected off Neilís skate in and beat Henrik Lundqvist. The scoring change cost rookie Kaspars Daugavins his first NHL point.
OFF THE GLASS
Senators G Alex Auld suffered a injury in practice and thatís why G Robin Lehner was brought to New York to dress as the backup. He accompanied the team back to Ottawa on Saturday. Auld is day-to-day. Lehner is 4-2-0 in Binghamton and has been pleased with his play. ďItís all been good. Itís a different team and we have to play a different game. Itís a little more defensive and we have to capitalize on our scoring chances. Weíve gotten some wins. Weíre over .500 so thatís good,Ē said Lehner ... The Baby Sens will be without C Corey Locke, who is out for a month with a broken thumb.