In 49 games with the Anaheim Ducks this season, left wing Dustin Penner spent the majority of his even-strength ice time alongside forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, two Olympic gold medalists who are among the top six scorers in the NHL.
Since being acquired by the Washington Capitals on March 4, Penner has yet to receive a similar opportunity. Through six games, Penner has played on the second line with Marcus Johansson and Troy Brouwer, and if practice on Saturday is any indication, he may start Washington's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday on the fourth line.
Yet the 31-year-old said it does not matter where or with whom he plays at this point in his career, instead focusing on what he can do to better help the team.
"I'm not getting enough scoring chances, but I like the way I've skated," Penner said when asked for a self-assessment. "I wanted to come in here and first of all be defensive, try to help them knock the goalie down. As a player, just something that's ingrained in me is never being a liability on the ice."
Earlier this week, coach Adam Oates explained his reasoning behind not playing Penner with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, saying that he does not mesh well with the team's offensive catalysts because "he's not the fastest guy in the world" and that his bruising style of play is better suited elsewhere in the lineup.
"I thought he had a couple opportunities that if he was in a little better position, he could have got 2-on-1s down the ice," Oates said of Penner's play during the Capitals' 4-3 victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday. "I think that's also him learning our system in terms of how fast you've got to get across the ice, and I think he wasted some chances because of that, but I also think he did some good things in the game, so I think there's a little system stuff there too."
Penner, who had six points in his first seven games with the Los Angeles Kings upon being traded by the Edmonton Oilers in February 2011, is still looking for his first point with the Capitals. The two-time Stanley Cup champion, however, is concentrating on attaining team success.
"At this time of year, individual points mean less and team points mean way more," said Penner, a pending unrestricted free agent. "The only way individual points help now is for teams that aren't in it and guys [who] need contracts."
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