January 21, 2012 1:30 pm

Consistency still avoid Penner’s game

In terms of Dustin Penner, the question hasn’t changed. It remains, how do you get more production out of him? It could also be, how do you get him to regularly play strong games? Penner has three goals in 36 games this season, which in itself is fairly baffling, but moreover, there’s been a trend. Penner follows an excellent game (like the one he played in Vancouver) with a clunker (like the one he played against Calgary). Clearly, not every player is going to be magnificent every night, but Penner’s peaks and valleys seem more pronounced than those of other players, and Darryl Sutter seemed to acknowledge that today when he spoke at length about Penner’s game…

SUTTER: “I just want him to be consistent. Everything is measured with him because of his size and previous scoring. So I’m trying to take that pressure off him and just (have him) be a consistent two-way guy. When I first came, he was playing with Jarret and Justin Williams, and we used it more as a checking line. That’s when we were trying Richards at (left wing), with Kopi. We were trying to find that balance, to get some more scoring. Mike is a better center, so we moved him back to center and put Dustin there and put Jarret on wing. The last couple games, we played that line against the Sedin line, and then the last line we played them against Jarome (Iginla) and Cammy [Michael Cammalleri]. It’s just trying to get that balance. It’s not so much him. It’s just trying to take a little pressure off him and get him to be a solid, every-night player.

“The size is a misconception, because he’s not a big power guy. But what you’ve got to use the size for is puck protection and scoring goals. Quite honestly, he does a good job of standing in front of the net. More of it is getting to the loose pucks, and protecting it and using it. That’s where he has to use that size. Because he’s not a slow play. It’s just understanding the importance of it. It’s like I tell the coaches, `We need him from 7:30 to 10 o’clock, every other day. Seven-thirty to 10, every other day, for 180 days. That’s how I’ve got to look at it and approach it with him, because we need more production from four or five guys. We need that. We’re hanging on to a playoff spot. If we’d had four or five more points, we’d be competing for first overall. That means just four or five more goals. If you think about how close it is, that’s just the little bit more we’re trying to get out of guys. It’s tough.’’

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