Zenon Konopka

Sabres’ Konopka suspended 20 games for PEDs


Buffalo forward Zenon Konopka has been suspended 20 games for violating terms of the NHL- NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program, the league announced on Thursday.

Konopka, 33, addressed the situation via Twitter:

And via this statement, issued by the NHLPA:

“I deeply regret that I have tested positive for a prohibited substance in violation of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.  I accept full responsibility for this error. As a professional athlete I am responsible for what I put in my body, and I am to blame for this mistake. 

I want to make it clear that this violation occurred because I ingested a product that can be purchased over-the-counter and which, unknown to me, contained a substance that violated the program.  Unfortunately, I did not take the necessary care to ensure that the product did not contain a prohibited substance.  I want to stress, however, that I did not take this substance for the purpose of enhancing my athletic performance.   

I apologize to my teammates and to the Buffalo Sabres organization, as well as to my friends and family. I have learned a great deal from this experience, something I hope to be able to share with younger players.  I will accept this suspension and continue to work hard to prepare for the 2014-15 season.”

Claimed off waivers from Minnesota in early January, Konopka appeared in 23 games for the Sabres this season, registering one assist while racking up 33 PIM. The noted tough guy has bounced around the NHL since debuting with Anaheim in 2005-06, spending time with the Blue Jackets, Lightning, Islanders and Senators prior to signing with Minnesota in 2012.

It’s worth noting that Konopka’s two-year deal has expired, meaning he’s currently a free agent. One figures it’ll be difficult for him to find work given he’ll miss one-quarter of the upcoming campaign.

This is not Konopka’s first run-in with the NHL, either. He was fined $2,500 for verbal abuse during Ottawa’s opening-round series against the Rangers during the ’12 playoffs, when he made comments towards Brian Boyle while Boyle was conducting a television interview.

Konopka is the first player to be suspended under the Performance Enhancing Substances Program since defenseman Sean Hill was given a 20-game ban in 2007 while playing for the New York Islanders.

‘You have to be ready to respond’: Wild, Yeo address retaliation for Benn elbow on Cooke


The Wild and Stars will meet tonight for the first time since Saturday’s terse affair, one that saw Dallas captain Jamie Benn go unpenalized for this elbow to the head of Minnesota’s Matt Cooke:

Benn also escaped supplemental discipline from the league and, on Monday, Wild head coach Mike Yeo addressed the situation at hand.

“Things happen in games and certainly you have to be ready to respond,” Yeo said, per the Pioneer Press. “We know that we’re going to have to play a hard, physical game regardless of who’s in the lineup.

“But we also have to makes sure that our sights are set on us and what we need to do to be successful.”

The Wild have been faced with a similar situation once already this season. Back in early October, the club had an opportunity to exact revenge on L.A. captain Dustin Brown, who sidelined Jason Pominville with an elbow to the face at the end of the last season. Brown was suspended for a pair of games, but Pominville missed five with a concussion.

Zenon Konopka, who is no longer with the Wild, was acutely aware of the situation — “You get a chance to legally hit [Brown] clean, you’re going to throw that hit,” he said — but nothing actually transpired during the game.

As such, it’ll be interesting to see what transpires tonight.

Sabres claim Konopka off waivers from Wild


Zenon Konopka is on his way to Buffalo.

The veteran tough guy — put on waivers yesterday by Minnesota — has been claimed by the Sabres, according to the Wild. The pickup comes just a month after Buffalo added another NHL vet via waivers, claiming Matt D’Agostini from Pittsburgh.

Konopka, 33, has two points and 55 penalty minutes in 36 games this season. Something of a late bloomer — he didn’t establish himself in the NHL until he was 29 years old — Konopka has carved a niche as a tough guy and willing fighter, but also one that excels in faceoffs (boasting a 65.7 winning percentage this year.)

He’s in the last of a two-year, $1.85 million contract and carries a $925,000 cap hit. He’ll join an already feisty Sabres team that includes the likes of Cody McCormick (leads the team with seven fights, but is out 4-6 weeks), Marcus Foligno (five fights), Steve Ott (three) and noted heavyweight John Scott.

Harding sick, Wild forced to start Backstrom


The Minnesota Wild lost their sixth straight game on Tuesday, but at least goaltender Josh Harding stopped 21 of 23 shots against the St. Louis Blues. Unfortunately, he’s sick and consequently won’t be available for tonight’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres.

This will be the fifth time in seven contests that Harding is on the sidelines. He recently missed four games while he adjusted his treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Niklas Backstrom surrendered 17 goals in four contests during Harding’s last absence. He’ll be back between the pipes tonight.

“Here’s another opportunity for Back, and hopefully he takes advantage of it,” Wild coach Mike Yeo told the StarTribune. “Last year, when we needed to win that last game against Colorado, he came up with a great performance. I actually feel pretty good that he’s going to come out and do the same thing tonight.”

This is a game that Minnesota should win and maybe has to for the sake of Yeo. There’s been ongoing speculation about his job security given the Wild’s recent struggles and their overall disappointing showing so far this season.

He recently addressed the issue by telling his players that he doesn’t want them feeling sorry for him.

The Wild also placed 33-year-old forward Zenon Konopka on waivers today.

Wild place enforcer Konopka on waivers


Zenon Konopka might have played in his last game in a Minnesota Wild’s jersey. The 33-year-old forward has been placed on waivers by the Wild.

Konopka has two points and 55 penalty minutes in 36 games this season. He didn’t establish himself in the NHL until his late 20s, but once he did, he led the league in penalty minutes in back-to-back campaigns. He’s also strong on the draw with a 65.7 faceoff winning percentage in 2013-14.

He’s in the final campaign of his two-year, $1.85 million contract with the Wild.

This decision comes at a time when Minnesota has lost six straight contests and is struggling to find its way offensively. The Wild will play against Buffalo tonight.