Many of the Wild's training camp battles for positions drew extra attention because of their magnitude. There was Charlie Coyle vs. Mikael Granlund for the second-line center spot. And Nino Niederreiter vs. Jason Zucker for a spot on the wing. But behind those highly touted young players was nine-year veteran Zenon Konopka. The message to him in camp was clear: Your spot as the fourth-line center isn't safe either. Coach Mike Yeo toyed with the idea of having an all-skill fourth line and the team signed veteran David Steckel to push for a spot there. But Konopka persisted in practices and after six games has been one of the team's most pleasant surprises. His faceoff success was well known heading into the season but he's skating better and earning shifts on the penalty kill and in even-strength situations with the fourth line. "We've been trusting him a lot in the defensive zone" Yeo said. "We've been giving him a bigger chunk of the penalty kill and obviously sticking up for his teammates -- he's going to be there for that too." Yeo used the word "obviously" when discussing sticking up for teammates because that's what Konopka is most known for -- fighting. This season he's been the only constant on a fourth line done a good job limiting chances and providing energy. Since the first game Konopka has received at least 7 minutes 58 seconds of ice time each game peaking Monday night in Buffalo with 10:24 on the ice. " 'Z' is a guy who is skating well right now" Yeo said of Konopka. "It's something we're definitely going to have to make sure we keep pushing him. He's worked hard and with that his ice time has increased."
Zenon Konopka earns spot by doing the little things
St. Paul Pioneer Press | Oct 16