Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Kings: Dustin Penner makes solid first impression
By Dan Arritt
EL SEGUNDO — The best gifts don’t always come in the smallest packages. The Kings got theirs Wednesday morning, and this one’s the size of a refrigerator.
Dustin Penner skated onto the ice for the first time as a member of the Kings, two days after he was traded from Edmonton for minor-league defenseman Colten Teubert, this year’s first-round draft pick and a conditional second-round pick in 2012.
At 6 feet 4, 245 pounds, Penner brings a unique blend of size and offensive skill, a combination that helped him score a career-high 32 goals last season and 31 as a member of the Ducks during their 2007 Stanley Cup run.
“Come playoff time, he’s going to be a real important piece of our team,” said center Jarret Stoll. “A big body like that, in a seven-game series, he’s going to be huge.”
Penner practiced with top-line center Anze Kopitar and right wing Wayne Simmonds. Several times, Kopitar and Penner stopped to converse, discussing their tendencies in certain situations and trying to get a feel for each other’s on-ice instincts.
“I’m just trying to figure out the systems,” Penner said. “A lot of the talking you saw out there was just, 'What do you want from me,?’ And stuff like that.”
Kings coach Terry Murray was asked his thoughts on Penner and quickly answered, “all good thoughts.”
The team had been in search of a top-line left wing since Scott Parse underwent hip surgery in November, using a number of combinations with Kopitar, most without success.
Murray is eager to work with Penner and squeeze out even more potential.
“There’s a lot there still, to get out,” Murray said. “He’s coming into the prime of his career, and this is an opportunity for him to come in and just be a good hockey player. I’m not looking for him to be the savior of the franchise. … We just want him to be a good hockey player, to fit in with everybody else.”
Kings defenseman Jack Johnson said he was looking forward to watching Penner disrupt other defenses with his size and skill, rather than trying to defend him.
"He’s hard to play against,” Johnson said. “He’s such a big body out there, he’s hard to move and he’s skilled. He’s a real pain in the defensive zone for me.”
Simmonds already found out just how smooth Penner is with the puck, receiving a couple of passes during practice that he didn’t expect. However, he didn’t realize how big Penner was until he saw him off the ice.
“He’s just a big human being,” Simmonds said.
What made the trade an even better fit for Penner is his familiarity with Southern California. He spends his offseason at his home in Newport Beach, which he bought three years ago. He made the drive to practice Wednesday from Newport Beach and said it took him only 45 minutes, unlike the hour-long trek it took him to get from his home in Terwilliger in southwest Edmonton to Rexall Place, the home of the Oilers.
His wife, actress Jessica Welch, and 7-year-old step-daughter plan to move to Orange County from Terwilliger in the coming days, he said.
In the meantime, Penner will try to help the Kings fulfill their playoff run, starting Thursday night against visiting Phoenix.