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Konopka issues apology after getting slapped with 20-game ban for performance enhancers

By Mike Harrington

This just in from the NHL: Unsigned Sabres center Zenon Konopka has been suspended for 20 games for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. Konopka is now subject to mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment.

Because he is currently unsigned, the suspension will kick in when Konopka signs his next NHL contract, be it with the Sabres or any other NHL team.

Konopka, 33, has issued the following statement through the NHLPA:

"I deeply regret that I have tested positive for a prohibited substance in violation of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. I accept full responsibility for this error. As a professional athlete I am responsible for what I put in my body, and I am to blame for this mistake.

"I want to make it clear that this violation occurred because I ingested a product that can be purchased over-the-counter and which, unknown to me, contained a substance that violated the program. Unfortunately, I did not take the necessary care to ensure that the product did not contain a prohibited substance. I want to stress, however, that I did not take this substance for the purpose of enhancing my athletic performance.

"I apologize to my teammates and to the Buffalo Sabres organization, as well as to my friends and family. I have learned a great deal from this experience, something I hope to be able to share with younger players. I will accept this suspension and continue to work hard to prepare for the 2014-15 season."

He also tweeted the following when the suspension was announced at 2 p.m. (Hoppy is a reference to his pet rabbit):

Konopka, a Niagara-on-the-Lake native who was thrilled to play close to his home after being claimed on waivers from Minnesota in January, had one assist and a minus-4 rating in 23 games for the Sabres last season. He was often a healthy scratch in the final weeks.

Sabres' McCormick ready after long layoff

By John Vogl

It's been nearly three weeks since the Sabres' last game, which seems like a long time. Just imagine how long it feels for Cody McCormick.

The Buffalo center has been out since injuring his finger Dec. 14 against Calgary. The veteran wants to "play with some tenacity for the group" tonight against the Hurricanes.

"I'm ready to go," McCormick said today in First Niagara Center. "It's been too long for everybody with the break. We're looking forward to this game. It'll be fun to get back out there."

McCormick will replace center Zenon Konopka. He had finger surgery over the Olympic break, according to TSN, but is expected to return soon.

Konopka: 'You always kind of dreamt of being a Buffalo Sabre'

By Mike Harrington

Zenon Konopka is going on mostly adrenalin and little sleep after a travel nightmare from Minnesota through both New York City airports but that's OK. This is a homecoming of sorts for the newest Sabre, who grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils in First Niagara Center will take him back to his childhood days watching the Sabres in the Aud.

"Growing up here watching the Sabres in the Auditorium was just amazing," Konopka said today. "You always kind of dreamt of being a Buffalo Sabre. My mom was born in Buffalo. My aunt's here, grandparents were here. I'm looking forward to being part of the community and team and being part of the solution."

In case you missed John Vogl's post this morning, Konopka made it to LaGuardia Airport but the only flight left to Buffalo Friday night was delayed four hours and then canceled -- and he was told the next available flight here was Sunday. So another flight was found at JFK Airport and Konopka went through a comical search for his bags that stretched until 3 a.m., slept an hour at a nearby hotel, went back to the airport and slept on a plane stuck on the tarmac for two hours before landing here.

(Social media alerts: Konopka's Twitter and Instagram feeds are hilarious must-follows)

Konopka arrived during the Sabres' optional morning skate and came on the ice for a few minutes near the end to simply loosen up. Coach Ted Nolan said Konopka will center John Scott and Matt Ellis tonight. Konopka was waived by Minnesota on Thursday while the Sabres were in town because Wild goalie Josh Harding, who is battling multiple sclerosis, was ill and the team needed to call up backup Darcy Kuemper. Konopka instantly thought a claim by the last-place Sabres could happen.

Continue reading "Konopka: 'You always kind of dreamt of being a Buffalo Sabre'" »

John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

About Sabres Edge

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |