He was an undrafted player who has gone on to win a pair of Stanley Cups with two different teams.
Even so, you still never know what to expect.
Thus, his explanation for playing an especially strong game against the Ducks on Monday – one where he had three shots, three hits and, most importantly, a goal – was, well, classic Penner.
“I had Pizza Hut last night, so…”
Ah yes, it looks like with a breakfast endorsement from IHOP already locked up, he’s now moved on to securing a dinner sponsor.
In the past, Penner has talked about finding extra motivation when playing his former team. In fact, when he first came to LA he shared stories of the ‘Penner Cup’ – a trophy the Oliers used to play for when matched up with the Ducks.
Is all that behind him or was his performance on Monday perhaps inspired by the thought of once again sticking it to his old club?
“There’s no motivation like that,” Penner shared with MayorsManor after the game. “It’s all for myself, and proving myself once again. I’ve reached the ripe old age of 30 now, and I have a different outlook on life and my profession. I don’t want to take any day that I can get paid playing the game I love for granted. So you know, more so than before when you’re trying to make your way and earn your place in the league, now I’m playing for the guy beside me. Because you see guys that you’ve played with, like Ethan Morrow last year – that was his last year – and you start getting nostalgic about your place in the NHL. I think as you get older, guys like Dewey don’t realize it yet, but you have to appreciate every day you’re able to come to the rink and have that camaraderie with these guys that will last a lifetime.”
As for the game itself, a little luck may have played as much of a role as hard work.
“I think it was a pretty even game,” Penner explained. “We were more opportunistic, but you know it’s always a close game when you play the Ducks. I think one of the turning points is when Perry hit the cross bar, it rung right out and that would have been a tough one to come back from. That’s usually when a team cinches down a two-goal lead, so we got fortunate there and we capitalized on our lucky break. It’s big to win it without going into overtime. It was a two-point game, we won those two points and it was a division game. So it’s almost worth four.”
Winners of four straight, Penner likes where the Kings are at the moment.
“I think we’re on a steady climb to where we want to be,” he remarked. “It started in the game where we lost to Detroit. And maybe there was a couple bumps in the road, but for the most part we’ve had a steady climb to where we are now.”
As for his personal journey this season, he says there isn’t anybody in particular that’s had his ear – leading one to believe it’s been more self discovery than anything else.
“It was a tough summer,” Penner shared, referencing his off-season wrist surgery among many other things. “I think as you get older the game gets a bit more mental, obviously the rubber band doesn’t snap back as quick. But for me, I’ve had to deal with being a healthy scratch and more different media scrutiny than most. Never getting too high or too low is the key for me. It’s only one game and one goal. That can all change in a matter of moments. That can all change pretty quickly, so you have to have that nervous energy directed in the right way.”
Yes, it was a slightly different Dustin Penner as he sat in the locker room Monday night.
It was just the two of us, all other players had gone to the shower. Yet, the big left wing was still thinking, still reflecting and still wearing his heart on his sleeve.
“I think that you just mature at different levels (and) different stages as you get older. When you’ve been through a lot, my life professionally and personally, that’s made me relish the opportunity I’ve had here.”
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