CALGARY – For Dustin Penner, the difference between the AHL and NHL playoffs is 3,000 miles.
On Tuesday evening, Dustin Penner had contributed a goal and an assist in the Portland Pirates’ effort to close out the Providence Bruins in their opening round playoff series. The Pirates were defeated 5-4 in OT and Penner was on his way back to his apartment in Portland when he got a call on his cell phone.
“Coach Kevin Dineen called and said ‘hey Pens do you want to come back and watch video of tonight’s game?’ I said, ‘really?”
Dineen couldn’t keep his joke going long as he broke the news to Penner that he had been called up to Anaheim in time for Thursday’s game four of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
In the AHL this season, Penner was second on the Pirates in scoring with 84 points in only 57 games played.
After catching a morning flight on Wednesday, the Winkler, Manitoba native played 10:28 Thursday night in Anaheim with three first period shots in the Ducks 3-2 overtime victory. Penner made his large presence felt early on with a big hit on Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf in the neutral zone.
“In this type of series with big bodies, emotion and earning space on the ice – it never hurts to insert a six-foot-four, 245 pound winger, that can score,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle of his decision to insert Penner into the game four lineup.
Penner, who played 19 games with the Ducks this season netting four goals and three assists, adds more youth to a lineup featuring rookie contributors Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz and Francois Beauchemin.
Now the series switches to the Saddledome tied 2-2 tonight and Penner knows he’ll be in hostile territory on the Calgary ice.
“I played here in the regular season and it was pretty intense,” said Penner. “I can imagine it will probably be amplified ten times from the regular season from what I’ve watched on TV.”