Oilers star Taylor Hall, who kneed Cal Clutterbuck, isn't certain to play. And Wild tough guy Zenon Konopka could sit, too.
Cal Clutterbuck will miss his fifth consecutive game Sunday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
Any Wild fan who expects to see Zenon Konopka exact revenge on Taylor Hall for sidelining Clutterbuck with a kneeing major 10 days ago that warranted a two-game suspension probably shouldn't get their hopes up.
First, the young Edmonton Oilers star sustained a hamstring injury Friday night in St. Louis, and although he hopes to play Sunday, his status still was uncertain Saturday. Second, Konopka has been scratched in four of the past six games, so there's no guarantee he even plays.
Third, and most importantly, Konopka has been in 97 NHL fights. Hall has been in one -- against Konopka's good buddy, Columbus' Derek Dorsett -- and Hall sprained an ankle in that bout.
Hall, who coincidently is the same player who broke defenseman Jonas Brodin's clavicle in the minors in November, won't be looking at the Wild's bench during the national anthems wondering whom he's going to fight.
He's not typically cast as a villain but is used to having a target on his back simply because of his obvious talent.
"I honestly don't know what to expect," Hall told the Edmonton Journal. "They do play a pretty tough game, and they have a lot of guys who play with grit. I imagine ... I wouldn't say I'd be targeted, but I'd be hit a couple of times. That's acceptable. I don't see myself having to fight. I don't really feel like fighting anyways."
If Konopka plays, the bruiser said, "You let the game play out and you let your actions be dictated by the game. Our most important thing when we play Edmonton is to win the game in regulation. That's Priority No. 1. Priority No. 1 is not getting Taylor Hall.
"But ... everything's going to rise, and it's going to be a pretty intense game, I would think. I think there's going to be a lot of hits thrown on both sides, and I think it'll be a fun game for the fans to watch."
Added Wild coach Mike Yeo: "We've played them enough times and seem to have enough of these incidents that just continue to fuel the fire. They're heated games when we play against each other, and I would expect the same."
With the temperature high, oftentimes in these situations players like Konopka or Mike Rupp wind up fighting somebody more in their weight class, such as Ben Eager.
"I've been in all kind of different scenarios when we've played a team after a suspension," Konopka said. "Sometimes nothing happens. It's one of those things where obviously we're not happy with the hit, but it's a long season, it's a long career for both those guys."
Konopka never has been suspended: "They like fining me."
The most infamous $2,500 fine came after an incident in last year's first-round playoff series between the Rangers and Ottawa. In Game 1, the Rangers' Brian Boyle roughed up Senators star defenseman Erik Karlsson. Before Game 2, Konopka skated up to Boyle as he was doing a TV interview and warned him to "strap in and keep your head up, it's Retribution Night."
"The league didn't see that as being good for the fans to hear on national TV, but I thought it was warranted, I thought I was doing him a favor," Konopka said. "I got a call from [NHL executive] Colin Campbell, and he didn't see my view on that."
A few years ago, Konopka also was fined when he warned Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf that Islanders star John Tavares, who like Hall is a former No. 1 overall draft pick, was "off limits. I said it in a way that Phaneuf was not happy and somehow he made sure it got to the league."
Regardless, Eager and other Oilers teammates will keep their eyes on Hall to make sure Wild players don't take liberties with him.
"We all know Hallsy isn't a dirty player," defenseman Ladislav Smid told the Edmonton Journal. "It was his first time, and hopefully Minnesota won't have any hard feelings. If they do, we'll have to stand up for him."
|Utah Valley U||64|
|(5) South Carolina||67|
|(14) NC State||79|
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|(19) Michigan State||61|
|(13) North Carolina||73||FINAL|
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