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Who will lead after Z?

Syracuse Crunch opens its 2008-09 AHL season this weekend vs. Rochester:

It may take a few games for Crunch fans to forgive Zenon Konopka for leaving the local American Hockey League franchise in order to pursue his National Hockey League dreams in Tampa of all places.

Sure, the former Crunch captain's hard-nosed playing style and rousing leadership will be missed, but once the 2008-09 season gets underway this weekend fans will see that Konopka has left the team in good hands.

Veterans such as defensemen Dan Smith and forwards Mike York and Trevor Frischmon will set the pace for prospects like blossoming blue-liners Andrey Plekhanov and Clay Wilson and sure-scorers like Adam Pineault, John Vigilante, Steve Kelly and Petr Pohl.

Last year's scrappers, Jon Mirasty and Tom Sestito, return to keep opponents looking over their shoulders, waiting for the gloves to drop. Sestito, 21, hails from nearby Rome, N.Y.

Judging from their pre-season performances, goalies Dan LaCosta and Sebastian Dahm appear ready and willing to shut down opposing slap-shooters.

If that's not a solid enough foundation, remember, there's more help coming from parent-club the Columbus Blue Jackets. Three key players -- Derek Dorsett, Craig MacDonald and Derek MacKenzie -- are still with Columbus but will likely earn more ice time here than in Ohio.

The Crunch opens its 15th AHL season with a home-and-home series against Thruway rivals, the Rochester Americans. The teams face off in the Flower City on Friday Oct. 10, followed by the home opener here at the Onondaga County War Memorial at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 11. Ticket prices range from $13 to $20; 473-4444.

So who will replace Konopka as captain? Coach Ross Yates isn't saying yet. In the final pre-season game on Oct. 4, however, Frischmon, Mirasty and newcomer Jonathan Sigalet all wore an 'A' as alternate captains. In a previous game against the Amerks, Dan Smith sported the 'A.'

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