Dustin Penner reacts to his goal against the Anaheim Ducks at Staples Center. (Harry How / Getty Images )
DALLAS -- Greetings from Dallas, where the Kings are to face the Stars on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center. The Kings are in a position to do themselves some good and also help the Ducks: A loss of any kind by Dallas on Tuesday would allow the Ducks to clinch a playoff berth.
"Bittersweet," said Kings winger Dustin Penner, who played on the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship team before picking up another ring with the Kings last season.
If it feels like the Kings were just in Dallas ... well, they were. They earned a 3-2 victory on March 31 on goals by Jeff Carter, Brad Richardson and Justin Williams. Jonathan Bernier started that game in goal, but Tuesday’s starter will be Jonathan Quick.
Penner, who sustained a lower-body injury during the Kings’ last game here and was placed on injured reserve, was activated on Monday and will return to the lineup on Tuesday. He missed four games. In the morning skate, he was on the left side with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. The extras appeared to be forwards Colin Fraser and Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Alec Martinez.
Penner's wicked sense of humor was in fine shape after the morning skate. Asked about his injury, he said, “It’s dissipated now to the point where I can play ice hockey again.”
It’s good that he clarified that. And that he can play ice hockey as opposed to, say, soccer or rugby. “I could play soccer with it. I just want to play ice hockey,” he said.
Not field hockey?
“No, that’s for girls,” he said.
Actually, it’s not. Men play it too -- in the Olympics even.
“That’s for girls,” he insisted.
Getting back to ice hockey, he said his approach when he returns Tuesday will be the same as it was before his injury. He had an assist in the game in which he was hurt, one of only nine assists (and 11 points) he has earned in 25 games this season.
“It’s a tight race in the West, and we just focus on one game at a time,” he said. “It’s very cliche, but these two points, Dallas doesn’t need them as bad as we do. So that’s the mindset we have going into this game, and we want to take these two [points] and go back home to L.A.”
Penner also said he has had good chemistry with Richards and Carter.
“I think it’s always there,” he said. “It’s just a matter that you have to work hard before that chemistry comes as a group.”
They had it in force during last season’s playoffs. “That’s definitely something we want to recapture,” he said. “It’s something that we know can be there if we just will it to be.”
The Stars’ roster isn’t the same as it was the last time they played the Kings. Since then, they traded Jaromir Jagr to Boston, Thomas Vincour to Colorado and Derek Roy to Vancouver. Stars Coach Glen Gulutzan, whose team is coming off wins at Anaheim and San Jose, said he has been pleased with his players’ ability to cut down their turnovers lately, but he added that they might have a tough time maintaining that against the Kings.
“I think there’s a little bit of a different mentality in our locker room right now, and we’ll see [Tuesday] night will be the proof of it,” he said. “This is a great team over here. And this is a big, heavy team, and they can force you into turnovers. So those numbers are probably going to be a little bit higher. They’re big and strong and quick and get on you, but we have to have our mindset right. If we do, we’ll limit those, for sure.”
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