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Ducks' Penner hopes return revives his production

by Curtis Zupke /

ANAHEIM -- The transition back to Anaheim was seemingly seamless for Dustin Penner.

He already lived in Newport Beach, and he obviously was familiar with the Ducks, from some of the players to the traveling secretary and others in the organization.

There was just one hiccup, though, and it concerned whether Penner will be in charge of the music in the locker room.

"That's the only thing I'm kind of worried about, because I don't want to come in too strong with that, so I'm going to slowly, subconsciously sneak it in," Penner said.

Penner prefers house music, that thumping rave-style beat he personally chose for pregame warmups at Staples Center during his time with the Los Angeles Kings. That won't go over too well with Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf, who digs country.

"He knows what I like," joked Getzlaf, who is giving musical control to Penner. "He's got to adjust."

The Ducks would like the reuniting of Penner with Getzlaf and Corey Perry to go the same way: Just let the music play and perhaps the dance partners will remember their steps.

Since Penner left after he hoisted the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007, the Ducks have tried to fill that left-wing spot with Bobby Ryan. While it produced one of the best lines in the NHL at times, the trio didn't nearly play well often enough under former coach Randy Carlyle and even Bruce Boudreau, who sporadically put the three together last season.

But Boudreau declared that Penner will be given a look with Getzlaf and Perry, at least at the start, and it's a big storyline in training camp.

"I don't think that line, for six years, has had that permanent left winger that you'd love to put in there since Dustin went," Boudreau said. "It would be really cool if he could take that position and run with it. But time will tell. If he can't, he can't. But we're going to give him every opportunity to do it."

Penner, Getzlaf and Perry skated together Thursday for the first time since 2007. Fans easily conjured memories of the then up-and-coming trio. Back then, all three were embarking on their NHL careers. Penner scored 29 goals, Getzlaf had 25 and Perry added 17 during the 2006-07 season.

"Unfortunately we can't call ourselves the Kid Line anymore," Penner said. "It was a lot of fun to be out there with those guys again. Déjà vu. I keep noticing things like that over and over again, just from the guys, the atmosphere … even looking at pictures of eight, nine years ago and the guys that were here. It's pretty interesting as you get older to look back and see how far you've come."

All three are big, power forwards who thrive on a stubborn, bullish puck-possession game that doesn't necessarily fill the highlight package.

"If you look at the way we've played the past couple of years, with Bobby, it was a down-low cycle game," Perry said. "I don't know if you saw too many goals off the rush. You might see the odd one, but a lot of them came from going to the net hard and crashing the net. Dustin -- with him on the line, he's going to be doing to be the same thing. It's going to be good. We're going to be fighting over who's going to be in front of the net more."

The dynamic has changed since Penner left. Getzlaf is the captain and he's coming off a bounce-back season in which he reasserted himself as a potential MVP candidate. Perry won the Hart Trophy with a 50-goal season in 2011.

Penner? While he was a clutch postseason performer for the Kings first championship in 2012, his inconsistent career manifested itself with 11 healthy scratches by coach Darryl Sutter last season. Kings general manager Dean Lombardi couldn't justify re-signing Penner over other integral pieces in the summer.

"I think that [Penner] knows that he's – I don't want to say on his last legs – but he's well aware of the fact that things have kind of been going downhill since he left here."
-- Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf

Anaheim was the most logical fit and the Ducks signed Penner to a low-risk, one-year deal for $2 million on July 16. Getzlaf is a good friend of Penner and stated what most are thinking.

"I think that [Penner] knows that he's – I don't want to say on his last legs – but he's well aware of the fact that things have kind of been going downhill since he left here," Getzlaf said. "I think that him being here and coming back, the people he knows, the familiar territory, he's really looking to rejuvenate his career and add on another five, six years at the end of it here."

Penner maintains confidence that he can get back to the player that scored 32 goals for the Edmonton Oilers. He's a proven Stanley Cup Playoff performer, and he's won almost everywhere he's been in the NHL. It's not a stretch that some of that would rub off on his teammates.

"You hope it does, and hopefully I can use what I've done in the past to help the team as a whole, whether it's a level of confidence –being able to win on different teams," Penner said. "Even my experience in Edmonton – the pressure that I felt as an offer-sheet player."

Penner, listed at 245 pounds, said he did more yoga this offseason to maintain flexibility. He is presumably in a better place mentally as well. At one point during the 2011-12 season Kings teammate Jarret Stoll had Penner live with him while he went through a divorce.

For now there is a honeymoon feel to Penner's return to Anaheim. Upon signing with Anaheim, Penner wanted to reclaim his old No. 17 Ducks jersey.

"My mom led the way on that charge," he said. "She didn't want to change the number on the jersey she had at home."

Can Penner come home again? He doesn't think he's far off from that 32-goal season that seems like numerous doghouse visits and several healthy scratches ago.

"The thought that makes me think that is the same thought that got me to the NHL in the first place: just believing in myself," he said.

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