Dallas Stars v Los Angeles Kings

Dustin Penner response to GM Dean Lombardi’s softball comment, “more kindling for the fire”

It’s no secret that Los Angeles Kings have seen plenty of action this offseason. Between trading for Mike Richards, signing Simon Gagne as a free agent, negotiating with star defenseman Drew Doughty, and (very publicly) courting Brad Richards, there’s no shortage of story lines surrounding the organization. Yet many believe a big part of their success next season will hinge on a player who is already under contract for next season: Dustin Penner.

More specifically, it will hinge on Penner’s conditioning and work in the offseason. Scouts around the league agree that he has all the tools to be a star player in the NHL, but his conditioning has been called into question in the past.  Earlier this spring, Kings GM Dean Lombardi made waves when he spoke of his free agent acquisition Dustin Penner and his perceived lack of fitness when he arrived with the Kings in March.

“Dustin is at the crossroads of his career,” Lombardi wrote in an email to Sporting News. “He can choose to use his athletic ability to either become a dominant power forward in the National Hockey League or be a dominant number four hitter for the El Cid Lounge in a men’s softball league — the choice is his.”

Now we have a response from Penner:

“I’m a pretty good softball player. What he’s saying is… if you’re an intelligent hockey player in the position I’m in I know what he’s saying and I know what he wants out of me. [It’s] just more kindling for the fire.”

Penner’s short tenure with the Kings has already been filled with its share of speed bumps. He only scored 2 goals and 6 points in 19 regular season games after he was acquired at the trade deadline (Penner was quick to point out that he was a point-per-game player at the beginning of his stint before Anze Kopitar was lost for the season). In the playoffs, he chipped in a goal and an assist before the Kings were bounced in 6 games against the San Jose Sharks. Expectations were certainly higher for the team than another first round exit after the high profile addition–but things didn’t work out for Penner or the Kings as they would have hoped.

Kings fans can take solace in the fact that Penner is already showing up to the Kings training facility three times per week to get into the best shape of his career for next season. The hard work is something that head coach Terry Murray has noticed:

“I’m really happy about that. This goes back to a conversation we had right at the end of the year. It’s important to know who we are, as an LA King and become part of OUR team, and our culture, and our structure. To be a player who I expect him to be. To play upwards of 20 minutes a night in a game, it’s going to demand a lot on the physical side of it. He’s been here since the end of the season. He’s worked very hard with (strength and conditioning coach) Tim Adams and we’re starting to see some signs of progress.”

Later, Murray agreed that Penner’s pride that could be a motivating factor after the harsh criticism he received during his few months with the Kings.

“Pride is a very good word. I think sometimes as coaches and people in management and even people in the media, we have a tendency to go in that direction and see if there’s going to be a response. Hopefully there’s a reaction here… and it’s a positive reaction. We need him to just follow through with what he’s been doing so far for the rest of the summer. It’s a big, big push and he’s got some catching up to do. This last couple of months is going to be critical and important so I CAN use him in those situations and live up to the expectations. So he can be the player that he knows he can be.”

For his part, Penner has already talked about how he wants to bring his game to a new level next season. In addition to winning, he’s “shooting for personal bests in his statistical categories and to become more of a leader.” From all accounts, he’s received the message from the organization loud and clear. The dedication he’s been showing since the season ended is proof that he’s doing something about it.

It’s interesting to hear that Penner said he was surprised with the difficulty of the workouts when he was traded to the Kings mid-season last year. Hard work and getting to the best possible condition for the season isn’t something that be new to an NHL player. Terry Murray agreed:

“I don’t like to hear that. I think players should know that they have to work hard. This is a business where that is a given. Hard work is the foundation of what it’s all about to bring your skill out. Most importantly for Dustin though is that he’s talking about it and he’s doing it. And he’s getting himself ready for the training camp here and I want him to be able to step on the ice, do the testing that we do on the first day, and then as we get into the practice start to play at a high level, execute the structure and the system that we want to play, and be able to do it through the 60 minutes. And that’s what it’s all about. Play the game the right way, and that to me is in top physical condition.

“I’m encouraged. We’re pushing him here, there’s no doubt about that. We talked about this right at the end of the year. He understands. This is a big year for him. Coming from Edmonton and coming back to California, playing for the Los Angeles Kings. He knows he has something to prove. He’s got great talent, he’s got great ability. It’s at a time where you have to make that decision to get it done. Time moves on very quickly and if you’re going to let it slide until now you’re 30 years old, you might not be able to catch up. So he’s doing the right thing and I’m excited for him. He’s been hungry and excited and on board with everything we’ve asked him to do.”

We’ll see how things play out when training camps roll around in September. He’s always had the size and skill to be one of the best players in the league—but work ethic has been a question mark. By all accounts, it looks like Dustin Penner will be in the best shape of his career and motivated to silence his critics. For now, he’s doing all he can to make the most of his opportunity next season.

Daniel Winnik was back at practice just two days after his ear got ‘chewed up’

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Daniel Winnik #26 of the Washington Capitals skates against the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center on March 4, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Rangers defeated the Capitals 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Hockey players are known for their toughness, but Daniel Winnik is taking it to a whole new level.

The damage was done after Winnik blocked a shot against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

After the game, Caps head coach Barry Trotz said his forward had lost a piece of his ear, but it sounds like that wasn’t totally accurate.

“I wouldn’t say I lost a piece of it,” said Winnik, per the Washington Post. “I mean, it’s really chewed up, and obviously some scabs and all of that, but no visible missing piece…The puck hit basically half ear, maybe a little more ear than helmet. Very fortunate it wasn’t way worse.”

He didn’t need any stitches, but they did have to use some glue to patch him up.

To watch how his ear got “chewed up,” click here.

It doesn’t sound like the injury did enough to scare Winnik into putting on a visor or an earpiece.

“I mean, my face has been banged up a lot over the years, and I still haven’t worn a visor. I mean I’ve probably broken my nose like 15 times or something. I just can’t wear it, and the earpieces, I think you’re just used to wearing it for so long without it. I mean you take them out you’re like, ‘Why the hell was I wearing earpieces in the first place?’ But I guess this is kind of an indication on why guys do.”

‘We’ve got a lot of guys sick’: Some Predators players have been hit hard by food poisoning

SUNRISE, FL - SEPTEMBER 27: Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Nashville Predators talks to the players during a break in action against the Florida Panthers during a preseason game at the BB&T Center on September 27, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Here’s a story you don’t see everyday.

Nashville Predators GM David Poile might have to scramble to put a roster together for tonight’s game against Pittsburgh because a few of his players are dealing with food poisoning.

During yesterday’s game against the Red Wings, both Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith were forced to exit early because of illness.

Now we know that the illnesses were caused by something the players ate (Poile believes it was chicken soup that caused this).

We still don’t know exactly how many players have been affected by this.

Playing two games in two nights is hard enough, but it sounds like it’ll be even tougher for the Preds tonight.

James Neal, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban are all fine, according to Brooks Bratten.

More details to come.

Lower-body injury will keep Ryan Pulock out for 4-6 weeks

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 21: Ryan Pulock #6 of the New York Islanders skates against the Arizona Coyotes at the Barclays Center on October 21, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Well, this isn’t the start to the season Ryan Pulock was hoping for.

After playing six games with the Islanders during last year’s playoffs, many expected Pulock to make the team out of training, but that didn’t happen.

He didn’t spend much time in the minors (two games) because of the injury to Nick Leddy.

Pulock made his season debut in last night’s game against Arizona. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a lower-body injury after playing just 3:57.

On Saturday, the team announced that Pulock will be out anywhere between 4-to-6 weeks.

If Leddy can’t play on Sunday, the Islanders will have to recall another defenseman from the minors. Because they’re carrying three goalies, they only have room for six blue liners.

With Tuukka Rask banged up, Bruins recall Zane McIntyre on emergency basis

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 22: Zane McIntyre #50 of the Boston Bruins makes a save against the Washington Capitals during the second period at TD Garden on September 22, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins recalled goalie Zane McIntyre on an emergency basis on Saturday morning.

The call up was necessary because it doesn’t look like starter Tuukka Rask will be able to suit up against the Montreal Canadiens tonight.

Rask missed Friday’s practice with what head coach Claude Julien described as “general body soreness,” but it might be a little more serious than that if he’s forced to miss multiple games.

According to Julien, Rask is feeling better, but the prefer giving him the night off.

The Bruins selected McIntyre in the sixth-round of the 2010 Entry Draft.

He’s never suited up in an NHL game before.

The 24-year-old turned pro last year, after spending three years at the University of North Dakota.

He had a 14-8-7 record with a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .898 save percentage with Providence in 2015-16. This season, he has a 0.44 goals-against and a .977 save percentage in three games.

It’s interesting to note that the Bruins preferred McIntyre to former first rounder Malcolm Subban.

Subban has an 0-3 record in the AHL this year and he’s been pulled in two of his three outings.