Cold, hard clash

Dustin Penner says he and coach Craig MacTavish had discussed his performance privately on a few...

Dustin Penner says he and coach Craig MacTavish had discussed his performance privately on a few occasions. (Sun Media/David Bloom)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

The frost warning is still in effect between Dustin Penner and Craig MacTavish.

The winger still seems miffed that his coach ripped into him publicly and the coach doesn't seem too thrilled about having to do it in the first place.

It ain't Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin, but they weren't exchanging hugs in the post-game dressing room Tuesday night in Columbus, either.

"I didn't talk to him after the game," said Penner, rather coldly, when surrounded by the Edmonton media yesterday upon his return to Rexall Place.

MacTavish, when asked about Penner's performance in his first game back, responded, "I don't know what to say other than he played a good game, responded very well."

Can you feel the love?

It was a rather uncharacteristic volley from MacTavish when he called Penner out on his fitness and the apparent comfort he's finding in his $4.25 million contract, but judging from the before and after pictures, the frustration is understandable.

If Penner can be as physical and involved as he was on Tuesday, and can have such a big impact in a 7-2 win, why hasn't he bothered to bring that game to the rink every night?

"I don't do it very often," MacTavish said of the public scolding. "I can't think of a time where I've ever done that. I don't believe in it, firstly. But ... I came to the realization that something had to change.

"I don't expect it to be mean-spirited to the player, I'm not that type of person. At the same time, as a coach, it doesn't do the team any good or the player any good to play at a level far below his capabilities. That's the way I viewed Dustin in his game. We need more out of him. We've got to fight through it and get it there."

Penner, who described his dealings with MacTavish as nothing more than a "business relationship," says he and the coach had discussed his performance privately on a few occasions, so he wasn't entirely shocked that things went public.

"I didn't see it coming, but I did, kind of, if that makes sense," he said, adding there's nowhere to hide when a spotlight like that is put on a player. "It puts pressure on me to perform."

Asked about the salary shot, Penner said he knew the media was going to run with that quote like it was an Olympic torch.

"I guess for you guys that's like throwing chum into shark-infested waters," he grinned.

Penner, to his credit, responded rather than pouted. He scored a goal, fought for position around the net and played a little closer to his six-foot-four frame.

His teammates didn't want to see him embarrassed, but they didn't want to see him on pace for a 16-point season, either. In the end, if Penner keeps playing like he did on Tuesday, everyone is better for this.

"He got the message, it's unfortunate that he had to go through it, but he responded and played hard," said Steve Staios.

"It comes down to how he's going to react to it," added Shawn Horcoff. "And I was really impressed with how quickly he bounced back and showed what he can do."

Which appears to be a lot when he sets his mind to it.

"Last game was an indication that there's a lot of game there," said MacTavish. "That's the commonality between Dustin and I; we both know there's a really high level game there, it's just a case of getting on the same page on how we're going to get that game on a more consistent basis."


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