Greetings from Edmonton, where it’s about 30 degrees Fahrenheit and there’s still a lot of snow on the ground. Spring hasn’t arrived here yet.
The main attraction Tuesday at the Kings’ morning skate at Rexall Place was left wing Dustin Penner, who was traded by the Oilers to the Kings on Feb. 28. There were at least a dozen reporters, photographers and cameras around him -- which meant that Jarret Stoll, another former Oiler who’s usually mobbed when the Kings come here, had no reporters visiting his locker stall.
“I’m old news,” Stoll said, laughing.
Penner, who is scoreless in his last five games after recording points in six straight games, said he’s enjoying his new surroundings.
“It’s been a welcome change, just a different intensity you have because you’re in the playoffs and every game you’re fighting for your life,” said Penner, who has only two goals and six points in 12 games with the Kings. “I haven’t been a part of that in four years.”
Kings Coach Terry Murray was asked Thursday morning what he has said to Oscar Moller since the Swedish forward was recalled from the minor leagues Wednesday.
Murray didn’t give an exact recap other than to say they reviewed basic stuff, but Murray undoubtedly uttered the words “score some goals” at some point. Maybe more than once.
Murray said Moller, who was summoned on an emergency basis after Justin Williams suffered a dislocated shoulder, will get some power-play time against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night at Staples Center in addition to playing regular shifts on the right side on the top line with Dustin Penner and Anze Kopitar.
“He knows what’s at stake and what the opportunity is for him,” Murray said. “This is a great situation for him to come up at a time of the year like this and fit on a top line and be an important player. It’s his third, fourth recall and we’ll be watching his performance. This is important for him.”
The Kings had an optional morning skate Thursday in El Segundo to prepare for their game against San Jose at Staples Center, and about a dozen players took advantage of the ice time.
Among them was left wing Ryan Smyth, who has gone 13 games without a goal and has only one in his last 23. He has been through slumps — and prosperity — many times during his 1,060-game NHL career and he’s trying to maintain a positive outlook.
“Just stay consistent. It’s a game of confidence and sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t, at different parts of the season,” said Smyth, who has 20 goals and 41 points in 73 games.
“It’s just bearing down and finishing off the plays. Don’t get too low, don’t get too high, stay even keel. It’s tough at times but you deal with it.
Left wing Dustin Penner has played against the Ducks many times since 2007, when he signed a free-agent offer sheet from the Edmonton Oilers and left Anaheim only a few weeks after he had won the Stanley Cup with linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
But Penner, who was acquired by the Kings from Edmonton on Feb. 28, anticipated feeling more charged up to face the Ducks on Saturday night than ever before. The Kings and Ducks are battling each other and a tight field for playoff spots -- the Kings began the day fifth in the West but only four points ahead of the 10th-place Ducks -- and this will be the first of three times they’ll meet before the regular season ends. They will end the season with back-to-back games at Anaheim and Los Angeles on April 8-9.
“I can’t wait for these games the last three or four weeks of the season,” said Penner, who has two goals and six points in eight games with the Kings.
“I haven’t played a game against the Ducks that will rival what’s coming up here. The games in the past when I played for the Oilers won’t be anything like the intensity of these next three against them will be.”
Winger Dustin Penner, acquired by the Kings from Edmonton on Monday, fell in love with Southern California when he played for the Ducks and bought a summer home in Newport Beach. He didn’t expect to use his home during hockey season, but he spent Tuesday night there before participating in his first practice at the Kings’ El Segundo training facility.
“I drove up this morning just to check out and see how long it took. Not bad,” he said, estimating the travel time at about 45 minutes. “A lot shorter than some of the drives I had to Rexall from my place. That took an hour and 15 if there was light snow.”
No snow to worry about here, but traffic can be challenging. Lakers star Kobe Bryant also lives in Newport Beach and has a helicopter to ferry him to games. It was suggested that Penner might grab a ride in the ‘copter when Kobe isn’t using it.
“If he wants to carpool I’ll pay for gas,” Penner offered. “If it’s premium, maybe not.”
Penner’s first day on the ice with the Kings was taken up with learning a new system and the tendencies of his linemates, Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds. He knows defenseman Matt Greene and center Jarret Stoll from their days in Edmonton and Stoll pronounced the deal “a great pickup” because of Penner’s strengths and because the Kings didn’t have to give up a player from their current lineup. Their price was defense prospect Colten Teubert, a first-round pick in June and a conditional pick in 2012.
“He’s great at controlling the puck and he’s a big, strong guy. We’ve got some big, strong guys already but that just adds to it.” Stoll said. “In the playoffs that’s a real important factor to have. It could be a six- or seven-game series and you need big, strong bodies to go through that.”
Penner, who will wear No. 25 when he makes his Kings debut Thursday against Phoenix at Staples Center, quickly made a favorable impression Wednesday on teammates who didn’t know him well.
“He’s a big boy out there. You don’t really realize how big he is until he’s off the skates,” Simmonds said of his 6-foot-4, 240-pound linemate. “He’s just a mammoth human being but at the same time he’s got nice, soft hands and he can distribute the puck well. And he can score. He’s got a good nose for the net. I’m looking forward to playing with him and Kopi.
“He’s got the experience and knows what it takes. I think he’s going to be a great fit for our team.”
Who would have thought that the Kings would make the most prominent trade on the NHL's trading deadline day?
But there it is: Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi acquired left wing Dustin Penner -- a member of the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship team -- from Edmonton for minor-league defenseman Colten Teubert, a first-round pick in this year's entry draft and a third-round pick in 2012 that would become a second-round pick if the Kings win the Stanley Cup this year.
"It was time to get better," Lombardi said.
Penner is not expected to be in the Kings' lineup for their game Monday night against Detroit because of immigration issues.
Here are some of Lombardi's thoughts, and yes, this first part was in response to ONE question:
"We were obviously looking for a top forward. I think generally we had a list last month of four or five that were realistic. There's a whittling-down effect, and it's not only what you need but what you're willing to pay contractually. The last couple days we set our sights on him, and it finally gets done. [Sunday] night, I wasn't sure anything was going to get done. It always goes down to the end.
"I think what makes him attractive is that he can do a lot of things but he clearly can play the left wing. I like the fact that he's been to the Stanley Cup finals and knows what it takes to win. All the reports we get on him, including [the former Edmonton players] that are here, Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll, were high on the type of person he is and also said that he would fit in with this group.
"Coming here and just fitting in and doing what he's capable of, we’re hoping he can get recharged. I think he had a lot of pressure on him there going to Edmonton, and this is the type of thing where he’s been to Southern California before. This has a chance to be a real good fit for us.
"The thing I like about it is we’ve become a team that's known as hard to play against. And I think you add a guy this size [6-foot-4, 245 pounds], with his ability, I think he adds to that.”
Asked about his habitual reluctance to give up draft picks, Lombardi said the time and the circumstances made it right to trade a first-round pick. It also helps that this year's draft is considered thin and that the Kings' pick will be late.
"In terms of where the franchise is at, in the first four years it made no sense to trade draft picks. I’ve always said there will be a time and place to trade picks and prospects but it has to be the right time and the right player. Last year was the first time we were a buyer, but we were a buyer on the perimeter. But this time, what dictates ... the No. 1 determinant in terms of when the general manager gets aggressive is what the players downstairs are showing him.
"This team has had some mental slides, but the way this team fought out of the last one [a 2-10 slump] showed me that, in essence, it's time to make us a better team and not take anybody out of that [locker] room. That's where a lot of my other deals were breaking down. I was not interested in taking anybody out of my room and creating a hole to fill a hole. It makes no sense.
"It was time to get better. The building process is trades, free agency and drafts, but it depends on what stage your franchise is at. And the way they battled back and got in this, OK, now's the time to get you some help and not take anybody out of the room. ...The way they battled back said, 'You know, it's time for the GM to go out and get them some help.'"
Lombardi said he wasn't interested in "putting certain players out there," meaning prized prospect Brayden Schenn. Teubert had fallen on the Kings' defense depth chart, though Lombardi said Teubert had played well during Lombardi's last scouting trip to see the Kings' farm team in Manchester, N.H.
"Colten's come a long way. He was really good when I went down to Manchester, but one of the things that allows me to consider this is he's very much a Matt Greene-type player. So I could afford to look at a good prospect like this because I have Matt Greene in the fold for a long time."
Adding Penner doesn't help the Kings' need for speed up front, and Lombardi said "the speed issue" was considered. "In a perfect world, maybe you'd like to have a speed demon that plays in traffic. As a practicality, that wasn't really there. If I wanted to focus on that, then nothing gets done today," he said. "I think the most important thing is speed through the puck. I think Detroit is the best example of that. Sure [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Henrik] Zetterberg can skate, but Detroit looks fast because it's speed through the puck.
"You can't outskate the puck, and I look more at the way they keep possession and move it as more critical than just being able to skate fast. I don't mind adding a guy this size with a clear identity. ... This guy with [Anze Kopitar], the size of these two? And you’ve got to think that's hard to play against."
Before announcing the trade, the Kings announced a four-year, $14.6-million contract extension for right wing Justin Williams.
"That's huge," Lombardi said. "That's an important thing for us. He's one of our more skilled players. We didn't want to lose that level of skill and a guy who's won a Stanley Cup and is not old . There was too much of a potential where we could have put ourselves in a hole July 1 to have to run out and replace him -- we're going backwards. To be able to lock him in and add Dustin Penner, we're not going backwards. We're still positioned in the summer if we want to add a top player, and we still have the guy everybody wanted in [Schenn] in the system. That's a big load off my mind."
Lombardi also said the left shoulder injury suffered last weekend by prospect Andrei Loktionov "is a setback for us. That hurt our depth." He said he's not sure if Loktionov will require surgery but that he should recover for next season.