SUN Hockey Pool

Penner made an impression

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:26 PM ET

His return is anticipated.

Perhaps not as much as some other former Edmonton Oilers that have come back for the first time to play at Rexall Place.

But in his relatively short time with the Oilers, Dustin Penner did leave an impression with the fans, media and teammates.

“It’s pretty early for him to come back, I feel like he just left,” said Oilers centre Andrew Cogliano. “He was a great guy, a great player. He’s had some success in Los Angeles, which is good.

“He’s going to be tough to play against, so we’ll see what it’ll be like to play against a big guy like him. But he’s a great guy and it’ll be great to see him again.”

Penner was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings just prior to the trade deadline at the end of the February.

It brought to an end to a better part of a four-year stint with the club that had its share of turmoil.

“He’s a pretty dry-humoured guy, he always brought a laugh to the room,” said Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert. “He wasn’t that outspoken, but the things he did say were pretty witty.

“That was definitely missed when he left. It carried on to the ice too, during practices and games. He was a great guy to have on your team and a great leader.”

The Oilers acquired Penner by signing him as a restricted free agent away from the Anaheim Ducks prior to the 2007-2008 season.

Having just won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks, the Oilers believed the native of Winkler, Man., could become one of the premier power wingers in the league.

“I think he could definitely dominate a game when he wanted to,” Cogliano said. “Perhaps consistency was a bit of an issue with him, but when he was playing his game he could dominate. He could protect the puck from basically anyone in the league for the most part, and when he was skating it was tough to stop him. He could be a pretty dominant player and it’s going to be interesting to see how he does in the playoffs with the Kings.”

By his standards, Penner struggled in his first season with the Oilers, scoring 23 goals, down from the 29 he had scored in a supporting role with the Ducks the previous season.

The following year was even worse, netting 17 which brought the ire of then head coach Craig MacTavish, who called Penner out in public, citing a lack of work ethic.

Penner bounced back the following season with a 33-goal campaign, silencing some of his critics, but not helping the Oilers get anywhere in the standings as the team finished dead last for the first time in team history.

This year he has 23 goals and 22 assists heading into Tuesday’s contest against the Oilers. In 12 games with the Kings since the trade, Penner has two goals and four assists.

“In practices, I always tried to match up against him,” Gilbert said. “He’s one of the few guys to have that ability to control the puck. He was very hard to get off the puck. He’s so big and protects the puck so well. It’s definitely going to be a challenge going up against him (Tuesday).”

The Oilers had actually tried to trade Penner once before, packaging him with Cogliano and Ladislav Smid in an effort to land Dany Heatley from the Ottawa Senators. The deal fell through when Heatley refused to waive a no-trade clause in order to come to Edmonton.

Heading into his final year with the Oilers, it was expected the team would try to move Penner again, looking to gain assets towards their rebuilding mode.

“You heard the rumours, but it was surprising how it came up, because we were watching TSN and it just came up,” Cogliano said. “When it happens, there is not much you can do. It seems like you just move and it’s history after that. He was obviously in the room at the time and he didn’t expect to hear that he was traded as he was watching. It’s the first situation that I’ve seen that happen.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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