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Penner Ready, Will He Be Back?

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings

Dustin Penner is ready to return to the Kings’ lineup, and coach Terry Murray intends for Penner to play when the Kings host the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. Where, exactly, remains to be seen.

Murray shuffled his line combinations before Monday’s game against San Jose, and the result was improved aggressiveness on offense, 33 shots on goal and a 2-0 victory over the Sharks. Most coaches, though, have a policy that players do not lose their lineup spot because of an
injury, and after an eight-game absence because of a hand injury, Penner is ready to play.

"He’s gone through a couple weeks of skating, and the doctors have given him clearance to be able to do everything now,’’ Murray said after Tuesday’s practice. ``So, I am looking at the next game. I will have an opportunity to talk to him tomorrow. … He feels confident and he’s ready to go."

Acquired at the trade deadline from Edmonton last season, Penner has been an enigma in Los Angeles. A former 32-goal scorer, Penner has two goals in 33 games with the Kings, including none in 14 games this season, a season that has already been twice interrupted by injuries.

Still, Penner has great potential, and the Kings will give him every opportunity to show it. But where?

Penner is a left winger. Dustin Brown moved to left wing before last night’s game and played well. Simon Gagne played on the left wing and combined with center Mike Richards for a nifty goal. Kyle Clifford looked energized and active on the third line, and the Kings are happy with their fourth-line look.

For Penner to return, something will have to change, and the Kings will also have to make a roster move to accommodate Penner’s return from injured reserve, with a forward either being placed on waivers or being sent down to the AHL. Andrei Loktionov is the only forward exempt from waivers.

Murray said no decisions have yet been made.

"I don’t want to ease (Penner) back in," Murray said. "If he’s going to get in, he’s got to play. He’s been out, he’s been doing all of the skating and all of the drills that the extra players do, who are not in the lineup, and he’s got the green light, emotionally and mentally, to go out and play and he’s got to give us everything. Do things right, do things hard.’’

The NHL released the latest results of voting for the All-Star Game, which will be held Jan. 29 in Ottawa. Jonathan Quick ranks 10th among goalies, Anze Kopitar ranks 28th among forwards and Drew Doughty ranks 17th among defensemen. Online balloting is available at

Among goalies who have played at least 12 games this season, Quick ranks fifth in goals-against average (2.01) and save percentage (.933) and leads the league with four shutouts.

"It is the most consistent that he has played, and that’s not a knock (on past seasons) or anything,’’ Murray said. "That’s just, to me, a young player grabbing on to the experience of the game. He recognizes, now, how important every game is. His concentration, his focus on the game, is getting better every year, and that’s probably the biggest change that I see this year, today, as compared to last year.

"There was a dip there in the month of November last year, and this year he’s been very steady with his concentration. His work ethic is always outstanding. He’s getting good results because of that attention."

After Tuesday’s practice, the Kings made their annual visit to patients at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. The Kings will be back at practice Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in El Segundo.

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