WASHINGTON – Still walking on air after scoring his first goal in almost 23 months Tuesday night against Calgary, Zenon Konopka interrupted his glory by offering unsolicited praise of Dany Heatley, a veteran goal-scorer who had been demoted to the fourth line the past three games.
“Total professional,” Konopka said. “Instead of coming with a bad attitude to our line, total opposite. So excited to play with me and [Torrey] Mitchell, [he has] raised our game. … I think it shows the unselfishness of him and being a true professional.”
Heatley is expected to start his fourth game in a row on the fourth line Thursday night against the Washington Capitals. For a proud player who has scored 362 career goals — 141 on the power play — one would imagine this has been tough on Heatley.
If so, he’s not letting on.
“It’s about winning games, really,” said Heatley, who has scored two goals in 16 games. “In 2½ years here, I think I’ve played with almost everyone in the room. [Coach Mike Yeo] likes to juggle lines a lot, so wherever he puts me, I try to play well.
“This formula is working so far.”
Yeo has been impressed with Heatley’s past two games, but with the Wild healthy up front and the top three lines displaying chemistry, Heatley will have to embrace the fourth line for now.
“Within each game, there have been times where you can see his play has put him in a position where we’ve given him opportunities with other lines as well,” Yeo said. “If we can continue to work off that reward system, it seems to be helping guys, pushing guys.”
Heatley says it took him “a little while to get the rust off, but I’ve felt really good and excited to play the game again.”
You can bet he appreciated Konopka’s comments after Tuesday’s victory, too, saying, “he’s a tough guy, a defensive guy and a good faceoff guy, but he sees the game well and he’s put up points in the past in other leagues and knows how to play the game. It’s been fun playing with [Konopka and Mitchell].”
The Wild reassigned forward Carson McMillan to Iowa of the AHL on Tuesday.