Ducks’ Penner is day-to-day with lower-body injury


Things finally started to look up for Dustin Penner on Thursday, as he scored a goal and an assist while being lined up with Anaheim Ducks stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. His tough luck continued, however, as he’s now day-to-day with a lower-body injury suffered during that blowout win against the New York Rangers, as Bruce Boudreau told the OC Register’s Eric Stephens.*

Penner, 31, is questionable for Sunday’s home contest versus the Ottawa Senators.

The big winger’s second tour with the Ducks hasn’t gone swimmingly. Boudreau described his training camp work as “mediocre” and made him a healthy scratch for the team’s first game of 2013-14.

Penner managed that goal and assist in just 8:26 of time last night, providing a tease at what the Ducks’ beefy trio could possibly produce if they’re together longer. (Brian Burke must have some mixed feelings in Calgary.)

As much of a punchline as Penner can be to some, it’s foolish to ignore his production, especially from his earlier Ducks and Oilers days. He scored 32 goals and 63 points with Edmonton in 2009-10 and has three additional 20+ goal seasons to his name. Despite the early headaches, he could still be a solid bargain for the Ducks at $2 million.

* – Note: Stephens updated the outlook as a lower-body issue, not upper.

Gionta returns to Montreal Friday (personal reasons)

The Montreal Canadiens gave captain Brian Gionta their blessing to return to Montreal on Friday to address the “personal reasons” that have been a distraction for him early this season.

The Canadiens will face the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday, so it’s possible that he could still play. Still, the Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs believes Gionta’s next game will be a road contest against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

Gionta has been able to play in all four of Montreal’s games so far, scoring a goal and an assist.

The 34-year-old’s $5 million cap hit and salary expires after this season.

Biron to start over Lundqvist Saturday


Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers are off to a putrid start, so Alain Vigneault is going with Martin Biron in net against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, Newsday’s Steve Zipay reports.

Lundqvist, 31, admitted that his confidence was shaken after allowing six goals against the Anaheim Ducks in Thursday’s embarrassing loss.

“I don’t have an explanation. You try just to battle,” Lundqvist said. “I can only speak for myself. You try to stay confident. but that’s really tough in a game like this, a situation like this. I have to better, we have to be better. Let’s not point any fingers; we all have to step up.”

Rangers GM Glen Sather said he expected the team to face growing pains, just not to these proportions (1-3-0 record with six goals scored, a league-high 20 allowed).

“I expected some but I didn’t think it would be this bad,” Sather said. “Some guys are struggling; we’ll get better.”

Considering Lundqvist’s rough start (.879 save percentage, 4.31 GAA), it might be better for everyone if he takes a little breather. The Rangers enjoy what might be a helpful gap between tomorrow’s game in St. Louis and Wednesday’s trip to face the also-struggling Washington Capitals.

Besides, the Blues haven’t been very kind to goalies lately, anyway.

Letang (lower body) makes progress, not ready for Friday

Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma remains mum about a timeline for defenseman Kris Letang’s return from a lower-body injury, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that he continues to make progress.

Along with participating in an optional skate on Friday, the 26-year-old also engaged in some contact drills.

Still, Letang won’t be good to for Friday’s game against the Florida Panthers. Bylsma said he’s “progressing” but that today’s practice isn’t an “indication that he’s ready to go or not ready to go.”

The team will keep a close eye on his progress over the weekend, though.

“We’ll probably see how the next three days go, to see how he’s progressing,” Bylsma said. “Whether he’s doing well with that, or whether we’d have to taper his progression.”

The Penguins visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday after tonight’s game against the Panthers in Florida. After that, they host the Edmonton Oilers at home on Oct. 15, visit the Flyers in Philly on the 17th and then play three straight home games from Oct. 19-25.

Pittsburgh isn’t saying how close Letang truly is, yet that schedule seems pretty friendly to a return, especially after this Florida swing.

Kings’ Williams expects ‘dirtier’ play from top players


After four up-and-down games, the Los Angeles Kings expect more from Anze Kopitar and their top line, so winger Justin Williams suggests that they add a little sandpaper.

“I’ve talked to Kopi [about] our 5-on-5 play, and we’re just going to get a little bit dirtier,” Williams said to LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen on Friday. “Play ourselves like grinders.”

(Hope you already had lunch today.)

The Kings are set to face Williams’ former team (/ex-girlfriends?) the Carolina Hurricanes tonight.

Kopitar’s four assists aren’t anything to sneeze at, but perhaps he’ll need to “get to the dirty areas” to score his first goal of the 2013-14 campaign (he’s 0 for 10 shots so far). Kopitar, Dustin Brown (two goals) and Williams (one goal) have fewer goals than Jeff Carter’s team-leading four, and only seven Kings have found the net, so it’s obvious that L.A. leans heavily on its top-six forwards.

Williams isn’t the only person asking for more elbow grease from talented players.

Slava slacking off?

Head coach Darryl Sutter was critical of defenseman Slava Voynov’s offseason efforts.

“He could’ve done more work this summer, and he’s going to have to do some more work to get his minutes back,” Sutter said.

Voynov, 23, is indeed averaging less ice time this season (20:11 per game) than in 2013 (22:18), something that was especially evident when he received less than 17 minutes of time against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. It’s tough to argue with Sutter when you look at Voynov’s numbers: zero goals, one assist, just five shots on goal and a -2 rating in four contests.

Simply put, the Kings need consistent production from Voynov after signing him to a hefty contract extension.

No one’s really bashing Jonathan Quick’s work just yet, but the Kings could definitely use some steadier play from their franchise goalie, too.