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Penner's First Challenge in Los Angeles is Matt Greene

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Dustin Penner hasn’t yet played a game, or even participated in a practice, with the Kings, but he already has common ground with some of his new teammates.

Ping-pong, that is.

Penner fashions himself as a high-level ping-pong competitor and on Tuesday, just more than 24 hours after his trade to the Kings from the Edmonton Oilers, Penner stood in the Kings’ locker room and called out his first opponent: new teammate Matt Greene.

``I'm looking forward to playing him in ping-pong,’’ Penner said, then added with a grin, ``Actually, you can send the challenge out his way.’’

Spirited post-practice ping-pong battles have been regular around the Kings’ locker room in the past couple years, so Penner should fit right in. The Kings hope he can fit in on the ice as well, and be the final piece of their playoff-run puzzle.

Acquired just before Monday’s trade deadline, in exchange for defensive prospect Colten Teubert and two draft picks, Penner is scheduled to skate with his new teammates for the first time on Wednesday morning and is expected to be on the ice when the Kings host the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday at STAPLES Center.

Penner arrived in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon and was scheduled to go through a routine physical that would officially complete the trade, which went down roughly a half-hour before Monday’s deadline while Penner was participating in some recreation.

``I was actually playing ping-pong, just trying to relieve some stress and win some money off of (Shawn) Horcoff,’’ Penner said. ``It was 1-1 in the series, and I think it was 7-5 or 9-6 or something like that. That's when (assistant coach Kelly) Buchberger came in and said I got traded, for the fifth time. This time it was actually true. He was playing pranks on me all day. So it saved me 50 bucks, and I got to see my name on TSN again.’’

It will have been a whirlwind week for Penner, who will step into a first-line role with the Kings, playing left wing alongside top-scoring center Anze Kopitar.

Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner used to be teammates in Edmonton, as did defenseman Matt Greene.
``If I do get a chance to play with him, obviously he's a big body and I think our styles would blend well together,’’ Penner said. ``We can both hold onto the puck and gets pucks to the net.’’

A four-time 20-goal scorer -- he has 21 goals in 62 games this season -- Penner is a bulky (6-foot-4, 249 pounds) aggressive winger with a nose for the net, and the hope is that Penner can fill the Kings’ long-held need for a top-six left winger.

``I started playing against them six years ago, and that's when Anze (Kopitar) came into the league,’’ Penner said. ``I could see the talent he had then. Every year, I think, this team and this organization and the guys who have been there since then, they've gotten better. Obviously they've made great draft choices, getting (Drew) Doughty, picking up (Jack) Johnson from Carolina and a bunch of other guys. Getting (Wayne) Simmonds and picking up Smytty [Ryan Smyth].

``They've got a big, strong, offensive-minded team that knows how to play defense. They're good at controlling the puck, and that's the type of team I think you need in the playoffs, one that gets a lot of offensive-zone time and second and third chances. It's not one-and-done.''

This is the first trade of Penner’s six-year NHL career, but the transition is made less jarring by the fact that Penner played two seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and still owns a house in the Southern California area.

``Obviously, if I had to get dealt this is where I want to be,’’ Penner said. ``I have my house and I have a car and friends down here. The familiarity is very convenient for me and my family.''

Penner will wear No. 25 for the Kings -- his number from his University of Maine days -- and is already familiar with Greene and Jarret Stoll, his former teammates in Edmonton.

In fact, Penner lived in Greene’s house for a while, then moved in nearby.

``I looked all over Edmonton for a house, for three months, while we sat in his basement playing Guitar Hero,’’ Penner said. ``Then one popped up on the cul-de-sac, across from his house. It was too good to be true, so I bought it. Then he snapped his ankle, trying to go end-to-end against the Red Wings -- which wasn't a smart decision -- and he got traded shortly after. Then pretty much everybody got traded there, so it was awfully lonely.''

Penner said he got text messages from Greene and Stoll after the trade was announced. The Kings had a day off from practice Tuesday, although Penner was able to meet coaches, front-office staff and team personnel at the training facility.

On Wednesday, he will start to feel like more a member of the team, when he gets on the ice. Then afterward, perhaps, a game of ping-pong.

``I brought my own paddle, actually, and a wristband,’’ Penner said with a grin.

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