Dustin Penner is back in Darryl Sutter’s doghouse.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
Following Tuesday’s “sloppy” shootout loss to the Sharks, Sutter took issue with Penner’s play as of late — but said he wasn’t going to park the burly winger like he did earlier in the year.
“[Penner’s] going to have to play a lot better,” Sutter told LA Kings Insider. “We’re trying to make the playoffs here, and it’s similar to last year where we just made a decision later in the year that we were going to play him and basically see what happens, and that’s kind of what I’m doing now.”
Penner has just two goals and 12 points in 29 games this season, and was a healthy scratch seven times at the beginning of the season.
(As Lisa Dillman of the LA Times notes: “If you examine a wider sample, [Penner] has nine goals in 94 games since the start of last season.”)
The 6-foot-4, 242-pound forward only recently came back from a lower-body injury, and is still trying to find his form.
But Tuesday’s effort against San Jose didn’t offer much optimism, as Penner went minus-1 with one shot on goal in just over 11 minutes of ice time.
Sutter said benching Penner again isn’t an option.
The Kings (53 points) are comfortably in a playoff spot — six points up on ninth-place Detroit — but could easily fall down the ladder given San Jose (53 points), Minnesota (51) and St. Louis (50) are all right on their heels.
“There’s no deep, dark answer or anything like that,” Sutter said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. How’s he played? He hasn’t played well enough.
“But that’s obvious — we’ve played 40 games and he’s got two goals.”