Konopka fights old friends

When you’ve played for five NHL teams, sooner or later you’re going to line up against some old friends.

Such was the case Friday for Ottawa Senators tough guy Zenon Konopka. Konopka played all 82 games for the New York Islanders in 2010-11, leading the NHL in penalty minutes while defending players such as Islanders star centre John Tavares. Friday was the first meeting of the season between the teams.

“There are a lot of different emotions there, positive and negative,” said Konopka. “You use whatever motivation you can over 82 games.”

Just like last year, Konopka leads the NHL in penalty minutes. It’s almost exactly a year since Konopka was outspoken in his defence of his Islanders when Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux ripped their antics in a 9-3 New York win, which feared a bench-clearing brawl.

In one of the funnier lines of the year, he also joked that he was ripping the poster of Lemieux off his bedroom wall. “I can’t believe (Mario) is so far removed from the game that he doesn’t realize in the heat of the moment what happens,” Konopka said, at the time. “We’re trying to keep our best players on the ice. We want John Tavares to be a superstar in this league and play every night.”

His sweater has changed and Tavares is now on the other side, but Konopka says the role remains the same.

“I always put a lot of passion and intensity into it, wherever I can,” he said. “The dressing room you’re in is your family and you would do everything you can for them, put everything on the line for them.”

CENTRE OF LEARNING FOR TURRIS: Kyle Turris is the latest to sing the praises of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, counting his blessings that he has found himself as Alfredsson’s centre the majority of the time.

“I’m very lucky,” said Turris. “He’s an unbelievable player. I’m still kind of getting my timing under me and I still have got some work to go. It’s coming. I feel better and better. I just try and get Alfie the puck and he’s the magic man that makes it all happen. You could put anybody with him and it would click. You get him the puck, he’s going to find you and if you give him the puck around the net, he’s going to score. Trying to learn as much by playing with him as I can.”

Before Friday’s game, Turris had five goals and nine assists in 20 games with the Senators. Alfredsson has eight goals and 10 assists in those 20 games.

HOME SWEET (CROWDED) HOME: Day after day, Alfredsson is swarmed by the media around his dressing room stall, meaning that his dressing room neighbour, Kaspars Daugavins, often has to wait until the crowd clears before removing his equipment. “That’s okay with me,” Daugavins said, listening to reporters ask the captain questions. “It just means I don’t have to watch TSN.”

BIG NIGHT GETS BIG ATTENTION: The eight-point game from Edmonton Oilers centre Sam Gagner on Thursday was a big talking point Friday morning. “Some nights when you’re feeling it and the puck is on your stick, everything seems to be going your way,” said Senators winger Erik Condra. So, Erik, when was the last time you scored eight points in a game? “Mini-mights, maybe, when everyone took turn in net. It was unbelievable, like shinny hockey. They were all decent goals and his assists were good plays, back door tap ins for some guys. It was the like the All-Star Game again.”

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