SUN Hockey Pool

Penning a better story

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- It took Dustin Penner nine games to get four points this season, and he had just five points through his first 14 games with Edmonton, but he's finding his stride lately.

Penner brings a three-game point scoring streak (one goal and three assists) into tonight's game with the Canucks, along with the belief that he's finally turning things around.

"I hope so," the big winger said after yesterday's practice in Burnaby. "I'm getting closer to where I want to be conditioning-wise."

Penner says he's in pretty much the same condition he was in last year, only last year he was playing 13 minutes in a supporting role.

"I have to condition myself to play 18 minutes now, and that's been an adjustment, playing five more minutes a night on average," he admitted.

"I haven't played this many minutes since I was in Portland (AHL). And 18 minutes in the NHL is a lot different than 18 minutes down there.

"But everything is coming along now. And as a team goes, so do the players - and we're starting to play better as a team. That's when the individuals have success. As a whole group we're playing a lot better."

In his first few weeks with Edmonton, Penner discovered he had to conserve his energy in order to last 18 minutes a night. He still does, only not as much.

"Right now I don't have the wind to play 18 minutes the way I want to, but I'm getting there with my off ice routine. I want to get to the point where I can play 18 minutes the same way I was playing 13 in Anaheim."

So does head coach Craig MacTavish, who needs Penner more than the Ducks did.

"He came from an environment in Anaheim where if he wasn't playing it wasn't any big deal to cut his ice time back and play other guys," said MacTavish.

"But here we need him every night.

"We look forward to him getting that level of consistency where if you're a big part of the team you're going to play well in the big games. We need him to be that player where we know what he's going to give us."

KEEPING 'EM FRESH

The Oilers will send whichever netminder doesn't start tonight back to Edmonton this morning to keep him fresh for tomorrow's home game against Minnesota. It beats having him sit on the bench all game and arrive back in Edmonton with the rest of the team at 2:30 a.m.

"It makes sense, with back to back games, especially playing out West and having to cross a time zone," said Dwayne Roloson. "What time will we get in - 3 or 4 in the morning? That way a guy can get rested."

Which guy? It's likely Roloson, so he can start against the Wild, while Garon, who has the hot hand after beating Calgary, gets Vancouver.

Or not.

"We haven't even talked to (MacTavish)," said Roloson.

Edmonton called up Jeff Deslauriers to sit on the bench tonight, and will cross their fingers that nothing happens to their starter.

NO SOURAY YET

Sheldon Souray hoped to be back in the lineup in Vancouver tonight, but the shoulder he separated Oct. 13 isn't quite ready.

"A little bit of a setback for him," said MacTavish, adding Souray hasn't aggravated anything, but it's still too sore to play. "He's just not as far along as what we thought he'd be. But he's working through it. He's day to day. "


Videos

Photos