No joke: Dustin Penner’s been a force for Kings

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Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Penner’s had a strange ride since being traded from the Edmonton Oilers during the 2011 deadline.* The beefy winger has already gotten some nice attention for joining Twitter on Sunday, particularly for his self-deprecating humor (he lists IHOP as his home page), yet he hasn’t received a ton of praise for his work on the ice in some time.

Well, unless you look at the postseason, that is.

While I’m sure Darryl Sutter could poke holes in his work – and maybe statheads have some reasonable formulas that show that he’s been lucky more than anything else – there’s a noticeable jump in Penner’s step lately. Sure, there were dumb-luck moments like his hilarious empty-netter from Game 1 against the Blues, but he’s also using his big body to open up space and create chances.

Penner’s been especially effective in the first two games against St. Louis. He had two assists tonight to go with that wacky empty-netter and a helper in Game 1. That’s four out of his six postseason points in those two evenings, but it’s more than just that.

Physical presence

From taking a thunderous hit from T.J. Oshie that generated quite a skirmish (including some knuckle sandwiches exchanged between Oshie and Mike Richards) to other rougher bits, Penner was very much in the thick of things.

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Before the playoffs, many would say he was just thick.

It’s tough to overlook the fact that Penner’s conveniently turning into the guy the Kings traded for during the playoffs in a contract year, but take heart Kings fans: the last time he played for a contract, his team (the Ducks) raised the Stanley Cup.

* – One could argue he’s had a strange ride since winning a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks, really.

Fight video: Flyers’ Manning vs. Penguins’ Gaunce

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Breaking: the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers don’t like each other.

The stakes might be higher for the Penguins than the Flyers – aside from those who still believe Philly has a shot at a playoff run – their rivalry rarely subsides.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Sunday featured at least one fight, with Cameron Gaunce squaring off against Brandon Manning in a pretty spirited bout.

Manning isn’t shy about fighting, by the way; this was his seventh bout of the season, according to Hockey Fights.

Higher on the radar for the Penguins is the situation for Conor Sheary, who has been absent from the ice since about midway through the first period. PHT will keep an eye out for updates on what could be yet another injury for the health-challenged Pens.

Dreading the work week? Watch this dog get ‘ice time’ with puck

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Life is difficult, complex and confusing. Good thing we have dog videos.

Forgive this video being one night late, but for those of us who watch cute animal clips, time is a furry circle. Or something like that.

Anyway, this golden retriever got a little “ice time” before the Washington Capitals’ game against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday in what would end up being a 4-1 win for the Caps. It’s an excellent video featuring a top-notch, hilarious pooch.

Alternate joke: Now that is some puck retrieval.

Patrik Laine’s out sick for Jets on Sunday

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Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews are locked with identical goals (34), assists (27) and points (61) on Sunday, which is remarkable since Laine has played in 67 games versus 75 for Matthews. He won’t get a chance to beef up his numbers on Sunday, either.

It looks like the high-scoring rookie is missing the Winnipeg Jets’ contest against the Vancouver Canucks because of an illness, according to TSN’s Sara Orlesky.

The Jets are almost assured to miss the playoffs, so seeing Laine lose a chance to bolster his Calder argument adds a little extra sadness to the night.

NHL schedules hearing for Micheal Haley’s sucker-punch on Calle Jarnkrok

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a Monday hearing for San Jose Sharks tough guy Micheal Haley for his “roughing/sucker punch” on Calle Jarnkrok of the Nashville Predators.

The league didn’t specify if Haley will face a telephone or in-person hearing on Monday afternoon. They did, interestingly, use the phrase “sucker punch” in that official announcement.

Haley received a match penalty during the game. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was highly upset about the hit that inspired Haley’s actions.

“When you run someone from behind in a game like that, you probably deserve to get a punch in the mouth,” DeBoer told reporters.

In other bad news for the Sharks, CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz reports that Logan Couture‘s situation isn’t looking promising after he was hurt on Sunday.