Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Zenon Konopka claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Sabres; Injury "updates"

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild practice Updated: January 3, 2014 - 1:36 PM

The Wild's Zenon Konopka was claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Sabres.

Konopka, who signed a two-year deal with Minnesota in 2012, was claimed by the first team that had an option to take him (Buffalo's ranked 30th in the NHL) and the team closest to his hometown of Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario.

"It's 35 minutes from my hometown," Konopka said. "My mom was born in Buffalo, my grandparents, when they were alive, were from there, my aunt and uncle. The best call I made was to my aunt in the nursing home. She was telling everybody there, 'My nephew is going to play for the Sabres.'"

Here's a feature I wrote on Konopka in October.

Konopka has the top faceoff percentage in the NHL since he's been in the league and the most fights. Konopka was a fun guy to cover, always a great quote and a colorful character with all his business ventures, like ZK28 wines, and of course, his bunny rabbit, "Hoppy."

"I really enjoyed my time here," Konopka said. "I got so connected with the charities and the city and the people of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The toughest part of the whole thing is leaving this area. My time here was amazing, but this is the nature of the beast and I'll never forget my time here.

"I still plan to write that check to the Minnesota Wild Foundation [from his wine sales]."

Konopka gets to Buffalo late tonight and hopes to play vs. New Jersey tomorrow. We joked that maybe he'll get to play on the power play since John Scott does.

"I talked to Pat LaFontaine, and they value what I'm able to do on the ice and off," Konopka said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

The move clears almost $500K from the Wild's cap and opens up a roster spot if GM Chuck Fletcher wants to make a move. If the Wild runs into center problems, it has Torrey Mitchell up here or Jake Dowell or Erik Haula in the minors.

But coach Mike Yeo is real happy right now with Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund-Charlie Coyle-Kyle Brodziak up the middle. All four lines contributed last night.

Niklas Backstrom will start Saturday against the Washington Capitals. Josh Harding didn't practice again today. Yeo said Harding is still not feeling well. He offered no other details and says that as of now, nobody has told him this is anything beyond just an illness.

If Harding can't back up against the Caps, Darcy Kuemper will.

Jared Spurgeon didn't practice today for the second time in as many practices. He's been banged up, but he was great against Buffalo on Thursday, so we'll see if he'll be able to play again against the Caps. If he can't play, Keith Ballard will get back into the lineup after being scratched against the Sabres.

The Clayton Stoner-Nate Prosser pair was real good against Buffalo and maybe this is a chance for Prosser to get a string of games finally.

Lastly, Justin Fontaine got popped inadvertantly in a battle drill in practice. Fontaine left dazed and definitely hurt. Yeo had no update he would share but expects him to play. Like I said, he didn't look comfortable, so we will see. If Fontaine can't play, either Mike Rupp will slot in or the Wild will have to call up a forward.

That's it for now. Some good stuff from Brodziak on his "goal" last night. Those quotes will be in Saturday's paper. and he certainly had a sense of humor about the "goal." Talk Saturday unless there's news later today.


New England 14 3rd Qtr
Seattle 14
Miami 83 FINAL
Boston 75
LA Lakers 80 FINAL
New York 92
Arizona 3 FINAL
Montreal 2
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Nashville 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 4 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Miami-Florida 54 FINAL
Florida State 55
Oakland 96 FINAL
Youngstown St 80
Cincinnati 46 FINAL
East Carolina 50
Michigan 66 FINAL
Michigan State 76
Marist 75 FINAL
Canisius 67
Fordham 77 FINAL
Dayton 101
Manhattan 87 FINAL
Monmouth 76
Quinnipiac 100 FINAL
Niagara 105
Utah 67 FINAL
USC 39
Connecticut 68 FINAL
Houston 70
California 90 FINAL
Washington 88
North Dakota St 64 FINAL
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Penn State 65 FINAL
(22) Rutgers 76
(14) Texas 59 FINAL
TCU 64
Coll of Charleston 49 FINAL
Towson 71
Cornell 53 FINAL
Yale 60
Xavier 68 FINAL
Providence 57
Drexel 61 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 44
Stony Brook 60 FINAL
New Hampshire 52
Maine 52 FINAL
Albany 44
Miami-Florida 66 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
(21) Georgia 72 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 80
Arizona 69 FINAL
Colorado 81
Wake Forest 63 FINAL
(4) Notre Dame 92
Loyola-Chicago 56 FINAL
Illinois State 72
(24) Oklahoma 69 FINAL
West Virginia 78
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Seton Hall 78
Delaware 73 FINAL
Hofstra 62
Binghamton 49 FINAL
UMass Lowell 66
Vermont 49 FINAL
Hartford 60
William & Mary 72 FINAL
Northeastern 66
Boston College 60 FINAL
(16) North Carolina 72
Virginia 77 FINAL
Clemson 72
(2) Connecticut 83 FINAL
Temple 49
Arkansas 53 FINAL
Alabama 42
Virginia Tech 71 FINAL
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Kansas 58 FINAL
(3) Baylor 66
Canisius 51 FINAL
Rider 52
Monmouth 52 FINAL
Fairfield 54
Quinnipiac 81 FINAL
Saint Peters 50
Butler 55 FINAL
Creighton 62
Wichita State 61 FINAL
Drake 64
Evansville 52 FINAL
Indiana State 67
(18) Miss State 67 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
Villanova 47 FINAL
DePaul 49
Georgetown 73 FINAL
Marquette 80
North Texas 55 FINAL
Rice 58
Auburn 45 FINAL
(12) Texas A&M 78
(11) Arizona State 58 FINAL
Utah 48
Missouri State 56 FINAL
Northern Iowa 64
Michigan 60 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 75
Minnesota 49 FINAL
Northwestern 70
Wisconsin 73 FINAL
Illinois 62
Bradley 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 76
Florida 67 FINAL
Vanderbilt 58
(20) Iowa 88 FINAL
(5) Maryland 93
(1) South Carolina 77 FINAL
Ole Miss 59


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