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Penner Gets the Green Light

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings

EL SEGUNDO -- In a young season full of stops and starts, Dustin Penner again has a green light.

Penner had to leave practice early Monday because of knee soreness, but after a doctor’s evaluation eased his mind, Penner returned to the ice Tuesday and is scheduled to be in the lineup tonight when the Kings face the St. Louis Blues in their STAPLES Center opening game.

Penner missed the first two games of the season with an unrelated lower-body injury and then, in the fourth game, apparently aggravated a knee problem when he fell to the ice after a fight.

"Yeah, it’s something that I had never encountered before, something I was just a little weary of, so that I didn’t do further damage to it,’’ Penner said after Tuesday’s morning skate. "After seven years, I guess my body is breaking down a bit. The first two games I missed, and then a third one where I kind of couldn’t go, but the doctors reassured me that it’s nothing that it’s going to be long-term.’’

Penner said the issue was "inflammation that’s (impacting) the mobility of my joints," but said he was assured by doctors that there is no risk of long-term injury.

Penner, a former 30-goal scorer, is a top-six winger and an important cog in the Kings’ offense. He reported to training camp in improved physical condition but has been slowed by injuries.

"Hopefully I can jump right into it, as far as where I wanted to be at the start of the season,’’ Penner said. "I’m looking forward to getting a few games under my belt where I’m injury-free."

Penner is expected to be back in his normal spot, as the second-line left winger alongside center Mike Richards and right winger Dustin Brown, as coach Terry Murray said he wouldn’t hesitate to get Penner back in the lineup.

"As long as I hear from the doctors and the medical staff that there’s no issue there, I have no problem putting him in at all," Murray said. "I had a meeting with him earlier, before the practice, and talked about this and I definitely want him in. So he’s good to go."

With defenseman Drew Doughty out of the lineup -- Doughty was placed on injured reserve Sunday -- rookie Slava Voynov will make his NHL debut tonight, partnered with Willie Mitchell.

Voynov, a second-round draft pick in 2008, was an AHL All-Star last season and impressed last month in training camp. Voynov was the final roster cut of the preseason but returned to the Kings on Monday. He’s known for his speed, puck movement and his ability to "quarterback" the power play.

"He’s a player that has been at an elite level of hockey throughout his whole life, just about," Murray said. "Playing back at home in Russia and playing here in North America, I think his game has really improved. He’s a first(-team) All-Star player last year in the American Hockey League. He carried that right through to the training camp and showed great awareness on the ice.

"A very intelligent guy. Makes good decisions with and without the puck. That’s just the way he is. That’s the game that he brings, and I’ll let him go play. I have a lot of confidence that he will be under control and doing the right things out there tonight.’’

The Kings will make another change on defense, with Alec Martinez returning to the lineup in place of Davis Drewiske. The Kings made Martinez a healthy scratch in Saturday’s game at Philadelphia.

"I had a little talk with Terry and a little talk with John (Stevens), just about being assertive about making plays and making the right reads all the time," Martinez said. "A lot of it was positive too, but they gave me some things to work on. I’m looking forward to getting back in the lineup and helping the team win.’’

The Kings aren’t expected to make any changes among their forwards, and Jonathan Quick will start in goal.

In order to support the families of the KHL team Lokomotiv that perished in a plane accident last month, the Kings' wives will selling silicone red bracelets during all home games in October.

The bracelets, which will be sold at the KingsCare booth outside section 103, cost $10, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the Lokomotiv team's families.

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