SUN Hockey Pool

Penner collecting dust

Dustin Penner will be a healthy scratch tonight for the second game in a row. (Sun Media/Jason...

Dustin Penner will be a healthy scratch tonight for the second game in a row. (Sun Media/Jason Franson)

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

DETROIT -- He was once criticized for being out of shape.

Now Dustin Penner is being accused of lacking jam.

On Saturday the Edmonton Oilers winger saw his 180-consecutive game streak come to an end as a healthy scratch in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

Penner will start a new streak tonight when he sits out for a second consecutive time as the Oilers take on the Detroit Red Wings.

"He's not competitive enough or fit enough to help us, so why put him back in? He's never been fit enough to help us," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "We signed him to be a top-two line player and that's kind of where it ended. The difference was we thought the contract was a starting point, and he's viewed it as a finish line.

"It's been one thing after another. I can't watch it for - certainly not another two and-a-half years."

Penner is officially in the doghouse, which was tossed under the bus yesterday, largely due to the fact he's only registered four points through his first 16 games. There were high expectations on the six-foot-four, 245-pound winger coming into the season, but apart from opening night where he scored a pair of goals, the Winkler, Man., native has been nearly invisible.

That's not easy to do for someone his size, and is the reason MacTavish unloaded on him with both barrels.

"It's time for me to bring that part of my game up, that competitiveness and that consistency," Penner said. "That's part of my game that's always been hard for me to obtain. I have to go out there and try to take the right steps and the process to do so."

The Oilers were hoping to be getting more bang for their buck when they signed Penner to a five-year, $21.25-million offer sheet, luring him away from the Anaheim Ducks, much to the ire of then-Ducks GM Brian Burke.

The previous season Penner, 26, had scored 29 goals for the Ducks during the regular season, then added another three in the playoffs as Anaheim won the Stanley Cup.

Last year as a member of the Oilers, Penner struggled with his fitness level and his increased workload early on, but still finished with a team-high 23 goals. This season, he's on pace for 15.

"What we've seen is inconsistency, we need him to be a better player," MacTavish said. "You can't just continue to throw gratuitous ice time at a guy that is that inconsistent. Something's got to change.

"The frustrating thing for me is that he's got the game and he just can't find it. You have to put the work in. He's got the game. He's got a great set of tools, he just lacks the horsepower."

To his credit, Penner owned up to his shortcomings and vowed to work on them.

As a player who's had a lot of success early on in his career, there hasn't always been a need for him to develop strong work ethic skills.

"I have to figure out how to get back there and reapply myself to get to where they want me to be," Penner said. "But more importantly to where I want to be."


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