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Penner Ready to Go

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings

NEWARK -- Dustin Penner made the weeklong trip to Europe and didn’t get to appear in a game. Probably not the type of vacation he wanted. Now, though, Penner gets a chance to take the ice.

Apparently fully recovered from the undisclosed "lower-body injury" that kept him out of the first two games, Penner is expected to play Thursday when the Kings face the New Jersey Devils.

Penner made it through back-to-back days of practice without any apparent discomfort.

"Penner is ready to go," coach Terry Murray said after Wednesday’s practice in Maryland. "I thought he had a good practice today, good jump, good energy, but most importantly good jump. I think that was the confidence that he’s looking for in his leg. He’s up and running, 100 percent."

A former 30-goal scorer who struggled last season after the Kings acquired him from Edmonton in a midseason trade, Penner pleased the Kings by showing up to training camp in improved shape.

Penner had been slotted for a first-line role with center Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, but the Kings like the recent look of a Kopitar, Williams and Simon Gagne line. Penner is expected to start Thursday’s game at left wing, alongside center Mike Richards and right winger Dustin Brown.

"Our top two lines are pretty interchangeable," Penner said. "We’re pretty deep down the middle and down the wing, so whatever combination ends up working best for the team, I think that’s what we’ll stick with, and it’s going to be my first game, so it’s going to be interesting to see how we work as a line."

Penner’s return set the top two lines, and the Kings will also move around their bottom-six forwards.

Brad Richardson moves back to the third line, alongside center Jarret Stoll and right winger Trent Hunter, while the fourth line will be center Trevor Lewis and wingers Kyle Clifford and Ethan Moreau.

That leaves out Kevin Westgarth and, more surprisingly, Scott Parse, who had been filling a third-line role. Parse missed almost all of last season after he underwent hip surgery, and had come under public criticism from Murray for his apparent subpar efforts during training camp and preseason games.

"That’s the way it goes," Murray said. "I need to get him up and going. He went through an injury that takes a lot of time. He put in a great summer. His commitment to rehabbing and getting stronger was tremendous. You couldn’t ask for any more, really. But sometimes it just doesn’t click right away, whenever you want it to. He’s only been through three weeks here of team play, and it might take a lot longer. It might take a month. I don’t know. It might take a month and a half. But there’s probably a lot of things that have to get worked through physically and emotionally, not on top of it confidence-wise. He is a scoring player, and that always is a big part of it for those players.

"You show patience, and most importantly is that he keeps that attitude of, 'I’ve got to work this out myself, keep intense, keep focus, keep pushing through the practice, work through the frustration,' if that’s what it is. You come out the other side and you’re going to be a better player and a better person because of it. So, he’s not the first guy that’s gone through this and he won’t be the last. You’ve got to suck it up, dig in and push through it."

On Wednesday afternoon, the Kings acquired 22-year-old AHL winger Stefan Legein and a sixth-round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for "future considerations."

Legein, listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, totaled 17 points in 41 games in the AHL last season and has yet to appear in an NHL game. Legein was a second-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2007.

The Kings also signed prospects Andy Andreoff and Robert Czarnik to entry-level contracts.

With Wednesday’s practice, the Kings concluded their "mini-camp" in Maryland, which included a hotel stay in Annapolis, three days of practice and a recreational trip to do some curling on Tuesday.

Players, coaches and staff have now had ample time to rest and recover from the trip to Europe.

"Feeling a lot better," Murray said. "Even yesterday, the energy was pretty good. Guys had some good talk and they had a lot of fun with the curling after. I kind of read that as getting back to normal. But when I saw the players on the ice today, it was a clear indication that we’ve readjusted to North American time. There was a lot of energy, enthusiasm and jump on the ice in the practice. So we have to assume, i think, that everything is OK."

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