YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Dustin Penner makes a big impression on his new Kings teammates

Penner, acquired Monday in a trade with Edmonton, shows off his size and skill in his first practice with the Kings. While they expect him to score goals, especially on the power play, they don't want him to be "the savior," Coach Terry Murray says.

March 02, 2011|Helene Elliott
  • New winger Dustin Penner talks to Kings Coach Terry Murray during a practice session Wednesday.
New winger Dustin Penner talks to Kings Coach Terry Murray during a practice… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

While his teammates caught their breath between drills Dustin Penner was constantly chatting, asking questions or gesturing to linemates Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds with a gloved hand.

Penner's first practice with the Kings on Wednesday in El Segundo was a get-acquainted party on skates, a quick introduction to new faces and defensive schemes before his debut Thursday against Phoenix at Staples Center.

"There was a lot of conversation," said the 6-foot-4, 240-pound forward, who was acquired from Edmonton on Monday. "It was exciting for me to get here and be a part of a playoff drive. Everybody has welcomed me with open arms.

"It's been a great first day of practice. I'm just trying to figure out the system. A lot of the talk you saw out there was, 'What do you want from me?' and stuff like that."

The Kings want goals from him, especially on the power play. They want him to play off the skillful Kopitar and the gritty Simmonds and lead by using the experience he gained as a member of the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup team.

"I'm not looking for him to be the savior of the franchise. Don't put things on your own shoulders," Coach Terry Murray said.

"We just want him to be a good player to fit in with everybody else. If there's a high quality leadership that does come out eventually down the road as he gets more comfortable, that's a benefit."

Penner, who spends summers at his home in Newport Beach, left a good first impression. Fans cheered when he scored and teammates marveled at his bulk and dexterity.

"He's a big boy out there. You don't really realize how big he is until he's off the skates," Simmonds said. "He's just a mammoth human being, but at the same time he's got nice, soft hands and he can distribute the puck well. And he can score. He's got a good nose for the net. I'm looking forward to playing with him and Kopi.

"He's got the experience and knows what it takes. I think he's going to be a great fit for our team."

He was a terrific fit in Anaheim, teaming with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the "Kid line" in the Ducks' run to the 2006 Western Conference finals and the Cup in 2007. Edmonton wooed him with a five-year, $21.25-million offer sheet the Ducks couldn't afford to match, but neither the Oilers nor Penner got what they bargained for.

Penner, occasionally unmotivated and benched in Anaheim, repeated that pattern in Edmonton. He scored 23 goals in his first season and a feeble 17 in 2008-09 before rebounding for a career-high 32 goals last season. He had 21 in 62 games before the trade.

The 28-year-old Manitoba native never played a playoff game for the Oilers and the Kings hope the chance to play meaningful games will inspire him to consistently maximize his considerable talents.

"It's a big difference. You can tell," he said of the atmosphere surrounding the Kings. "It's nothing against Edmonton, it's just that when you get to the rink and the demeanor in the meetings, the players, there's still some joking around but when the puck drops it's down to business as far as when the drills start and how intense each drill is and how quickly you move from drill to drill. It's a high-intensity practice."

Penner, whose wife and 7-year-old daughter will soon join him here, said he was surprised at being traded and found it difficult to leave familiar people and places. But the unfamiliar can be energizing, and for Penner, that's a chance to lead the goal-hungry Kings.

"The team now as a whole is physical. Obviously they're really good defensively. They have a lot of key pieces to make a run," he said. "They're well-coached and they have great goaltending and I really like what I see here as far as the big bodies and cycling the puck.

"A lot of offense comes from second and third chances, not just kind of one-and-done, and with the people and personnel we have here, the skill we have on the defensive side of the puck to get it out and keep it in, it should be good."

Los Angeles Times Articles