BUFFALO – The Sabres have claimed gritty center Zenon Konopka off waivers from the Minnesota Wild, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Michael Russo.
The 33-year-old, a native of nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., is a rare mix of grit and skill, fighting regularly and annually ranking among the NHL’s faceoff leaders.
Konopka, 6-feet and 213 pounds, has 12 goals, 29 points, 1,049 penalty minutes and a minus-45 rating in 323 NHL games. He has one goal, two points and 55 penalty minutes in 36 games this season.
The Sabres are down to 11 forwards after winger Drew Stafford (upper body) was hurt in Thursday’s 4-1 loss in Minnesota. They also claimed winger Matt D’Agostini off waivers from Pittsburgh in November.
The undrafted Konopka has a $925,000 salary cap hit and $1 million salary this season.
The Wild said it waived Konopka so the team could recall a goalie, although Russo wrote it had other options if it wanted to keep the tough guy.
Konopka has 108 NHL fights, according to hockeyfights.com, including seven this season. He had a league-high 33 scraps in 2009-10 with Tampa Bay. He’s also played for Anaheim, Columbus the New York Islanders and Ottawa.
Interim Sabres coach Ted Nolan, of course, loves having tough guys on his roster. The Sabres still have enforcer John Scott. Forward Cody McCormick, who fights regularly, is hurt (hand).