SUN Hockey Pool

Flames won't underestimate Penner

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:40 PM ET

The NHL doesn’t allow the prison rules you saw a few years back.

Which means defending against a beast of a player in front of the net isn’t so easy.

Therefore, the Flames will likely have their hands full Saturday if Dustin Penner parks himself in front of the cage.

“You might not be able to get him in front of the net, but you can try to get in your licks in the corner,” said Flames defenceman Cory Sarich. “With a guy like Penner, it’s tough. He is so solid, you have to worry about position.

“A lot of times it’s not so much the body with guys like that, but making sure that puck stays away from your net.”

The Flames had best be aware of the whole line Penner is on after the performance they put in Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He, Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner combined for 13 points in a 6-4 win during which the Oilers came back from a 4-1 deficit. Penner scored twice and added three helpers.

“As far as Hemsky goes, let’s hope Reggie (Robyn Regehr) gets in his kitchen again,” Sarich said.

Penner is finally showing why the Oilers signed him to a four-year contract worth US$21.25-million. He’s using his size — the 6-foot-4 winger is listed at 245-lb. — to be a force, by driving to the net.

He’s en route to bouncing back from the 17-goal season he had last year.

“He’s probably moving a bit faster out there if he’s lost a couple of pounds. He’s shooting the puck from everywhere, it seems, from what I’ve seen,” Sarich said. “And confidence is a big thing. He had it two or three years ago, before he came to Edmonton, and now he seems to have found it again. His line’s clicking, so now we’re going to have to key on him again.”

The Flames won’t just be able to focus on Penner.

Gagner has excelled since starting the season on the fourth line, while Hemsky appears to be turning his game around after a slow start.

“They’re playing well,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. “My biggest thing is how we play and what we need to do. We’re well aware of our opponent, as I’m sure they are with us. I don’t think we want to get too caught up where we’re focusing on three players.”


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