Penner inked to do some damage

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

EDMONTON -- The sound of the puck hitting Dustin Penner in the foot couldn't be missed.

Nor could the reaction from the Edmonton Oilers forward.

It stung -- no surprise seeing as it was an offering from teammate Sheldon Souray -- and Penner was in obvious pain.

For a while, he was doubled over.

Soon, he was trying to skate it off.

And before long, he was back in the same spot in front of the net during yesterday morning's skate, trying to deflect more Souray bullets.

He might as well get used to being hit by them.

"I probably should have kept my foot down, but when you see a shot like that coming, your initial reaction is to get out of the way," said Penner, who iced his right foot after the session.

"It won't be the last time. It's not the first time."

But at least Penner wasn't hit in the funny bone.

"I'm gonna start something just to keep track. I'll see if I set a record," Penner joked. "I'm gonna count those as blocked shots."

Ah, such is life for the big right-winger.

Besides, Souray's bombs may not be the only shots fired Penner's way.

Having joined the Oilers thanks to the US$21.25 million, five-year contract that the Anaheim Ducks didn't match, Penner will be under the microscope.

He'll be under great scrutiny to prove he was worth the big offer sheet, with expectations of improving on the 29-goal, 16-assist campaign he posted playing on a line with talented youngsters Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and with a salary of US$450,000 for the Stanley Cup champs.

"I'll probably not read the paper as much -- watch a lot of movies and not as much TV," said Penner, who'll celebrate his 25th birthday tomorrow.

"I think you have to put pressure on yourself, but I would have put more pressure on myself in Anaheim. With Teemu (Selanne) being gone, me, Getz and Perry would have had to make up for the goals lost."

True, but the eyes of the NHL will be watching the 6-ft.-4, 245-lb. product of Winkler, Man., all the more because of the controversy surrounding his move to the Oilers.

He was the centre of a storm with Ducks GM Brian Burke furious about the size of the contract he signed with the Oilers and its impact on the league.

And it was an interesting week waiting to see if the Ducks would match the Oilers' offer.

"It was a bit of a whirlwind summer to begin with, and to get that just added to it. I was kinda sitting there that week on pins and needles, seeing how it was gonna play out," Penner said. "The first half of the week wasn't tough, but towards the end when nothing was being said ... played with my mind a bit.

"It was a fun week, but it was a tough week.

"The rest of the NHL will be watching, but the Oilers will be more concerned about the future and how their new first-line right wing fares.

Penner headed into last night's pre-season clash with the Calgary Flames with no goals and one assist in two outings, and yesterday head coach Craig MacTavish said there was room for improvement in his game

But MacTavish also pointed out just how high the hopes are for the hulking player.

"I think we're just scratching the surface on how dominant this player can be," MacTavish said.

"He reminds me a lot of John LeClair, who I saw first-hand in Philadelphia. He can skate, he has good, soft hands. I think there's that potential to be that type of player.

"He's got that type of potential."


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