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Slumping Dustin Penner 'waiting for that dam to break'

April 19, 2011 |  3:24 pm

Ljxivenc When a coach says a player is performing “better,” as Kings Coach Terry Murray has recently described the efforts of left wing Dustin Penner, the natural reaction is, better than what?

Or … how could he be worse?

The brawny winger, acquired from Edmonton on Feb. 28 for defense prospect Colten Teubert, a first-round pick in this year’s entry draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2012 draft, finished the season with no points in his last 12 games and no goals in his last 13. That streak has continued in the first two games of the Kings’ first-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks.

He also had a  -2 defensive rating in the Kings’ split of the first two games at San Jose and was demoted to the fourth line during the opener. Those games were his first in postseason play since he won the Cup with the Ducks in 2007, an even longer drought than his goal slump.

Penner will be back with Michal Handzus and Dustin Brown in Game 3 on Tuesday night at Staples Center, but Murray never hesitates to mix up his lines so that can easily change if Penner doesn't produce.

“You’re waiting for that dam to break,” Penner said of his slump. “I’m not alone in going through a dry spell like many players, I think. [Alexander] Ovechkin went through one earlier this year, I don’t know how long it went. But it’s not fun and I don’t know how you get in 'em and if I knew how to get out of them I would be already.

“Right now it’s just concentrating on bringing the hard work, and with that maybe you get one of those lucky bounces. You know, as long as we’re winning it doesn’t really matter. The first game was close and this last game, you can’t worry about yourself in the playoffs. It’s more so a team game than any other point during the whole season.”

He has gotten some decent scoring chances the past few games and is remaining optimistic.

“There’s no time like the present,” he said. “You’ve got to have the philosophy that the next one’s going in and not worry about when it’s going in, just that you’re due. Keep saying that.”

He was in a good enough mood to joke that maybe teammate Drew Doughty, who had two goals and two assists in the Kings’ 4-0 victory Saturday at San Jose, “can fire one in off my shin pads.”

So why not ask him?

“Maybe you can. I’m a little nervous,” Penner said. “He got four points last game. I don’t know if I can approach him.

"He’s a heck of a hockey player. I’m just going to keep going to the net, at least trying to be a positive impact whether it’s on the score sheet or not.”

Murray liked the idea of Penner deflecting a shot by Doughty — or any other King — into the net.

“That means he’s in front of the net. That would be great. That’s a good thing,” Murray said. “He’s a big-bodied guy who can put a lot of pressure on goaltenders to start looking around him. So that’s a good thing. We’ll start looking for that tonight.”

Check back later for game coverage at www.latimes.com/sports

ALSO:

Anze Kopitar to go along for the ride for Game 5


Kings sign Tyler Toffoli and Jordan Weal to entry-level contracts

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Penner (25) before the first round game of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the San Jose Sharks at the Staples Center April 19, 2011. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire

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