X-Factor: Kings need Penner to play to his potential
Dustin Penner only said what a lot of hockey people have thought for a while when he recently told a Los Angeles Times reporter, "I don't know if you watched me but I used to be a good player."
He was a pretty good player in the Kings' five-game Western Conference Quarterfinal series win against the Vancouver Canucks. He scored the winning goal in Game 1, and he set up Trevor Lewis' goal in Game 2. He also threw his 6-foot-4, 222-pound body around for 11 hits.
It was a pretty good contribution, one the Kings certainly could use more of if they hope to lengthen their stay in the postseason.
As well as he played against the Canucks, coach Darryl Sutter knows there's more for Penner to give.
"He can be a whole lot better for all three periods," Sutter said after Game 1. "We're talking about him because he scored one goal. If it's just about scoring I don’t think we’re going to beat this team 5-4 or 6-5. You have to be very good 200 feet, everywhere on the ice."
If Penner can do that, it would go a long way toward the Kings beating the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Semifinals and reaching the conference finals for the first time since 1993.
Left Wing - LAK
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 6 | +/-: 2
Penner certainly has experience playing this deep into the postseason. He was a major component in the Anaheim Ducks winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, with three goals and five assists in 21 games.
As could his offensive skills. While Penner jokingly refers to himself as a good player in the past tense, there's hope he could re-discover those abilities in the present. He had 29 goals with the Ducks in 2006-07, his first full NHL season, and 32 goals with the Edmonton Oilers in 2009-10.
However, he has just nine goals in 84 regular-season games since arriving in Los Angeles at the trade 2011 trade deadline, and is better remembered for blaming his wife's pancakes for a back injury.
Facing the League's best defensive team in the regular season, the Kings will need as much offensive help as they can find. With a top line anchored by first-round star Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar, and a second line featuring proven playoff performers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, getting positive contributions from Penner on the third line would make them that much tougher to beat.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK