SUN Hockey Pool

Penner can author rebound

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:34 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Misinterpreting Dustin Penner is easy.

Understanding the sarcastic but talented Edmonton Oilers winger is much more difficult.

Former head coach Craig MacTavish couldn't figure him out, publicly bashing Penner while scratching him last season.

It's not that the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder doesn't have skill, it's that he's so content and aloof for a guy his size, some -- like MacTavish -- wonder whether he's driven enough to live up to the potential he showed in his first full NHL season with the Anaheim Ducks.

That 29-goal, 45-point campaign triggered an avalanche of upheaval in the Manitoban's life.

Receiving a massive offer sheet from the Oilers as a restricted free agent following that Stanley Cup season, Penner was on the move after Ducks GM Brian Burke refused to match the five-year, US$21.25-million deal put on the table.

Unable to live up to the expectations in Edmonton that came with that huge contract, Penner became part of the package offered to the Ottawa Senators for Dany Heatley this summer.

Penner's reaction could be interpreted as emotionless, just as some feel his play on the ice has been in Edmonton.

But it's honest.

"It didn't bother me," Penner said with a shrug before last night's game against the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place. "I was down in California. The only thing it would have changed is I would have had to return my plane ticket (to Edmonton for) the beginning of camp and sell my house here.

"I only worry about what I can control -- and, really, that isn't much."

There are a few things in his command.

One is the way he plays. And if his pre-season outing against the Flames a little more than a week ago was any indication, he intends on doing that with more fire than he's been credited in his first two years with the Oilers.

Another thing he's worked on is his fitness -- the subject of MacTavish's ire last season.

New coach Pat Quinn suggests things are different now.

"He's worked hard. He looks like he prepared," said the Oilers bench boss. "His testing scores were good as far as physical training aspects. He's big. He's strong."

Skating on a line with the speedy Andrew Cogliano and centre Gilbert Brule, Quinn seems to have faith in Penner's ability to keep up.

"He carries a lot (of weight). He believes he's strong enough to carry the size he has. Certainly we'll see that," Quinn said. "He seems to be skating well."

Penner, who had a goal and an assist in last night's loss, is down in weight from a year ago.

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA

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THREE STARS

AS CHOSEN BY SUN MEDIA

1 DAVID MOSS, FLAMES

Two goals, including the winner, for the top-line left-winger.

2 JAY BOUWMEESTER, FLAMES

Couple of assists for the all-around stellar newcomer on the blueline.

3 DUSTIN PENNER

A force in front of the Flames net. Finished with a goal and assist.


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