Kings hope Dustin Penner’s line switch pays off


ST. LOUIS — It might be wishful thinking, but Coach Darryl Sutter is hoping the scent of playoff success will revive left wing Dustin Penner when the Kings open their second-round playoff series against theSt. Louis Blues on Saturday at Scottrade Center.

Sutter switched wingers toward the end of the Kings’ first-round victory over Vancouver, putting Penner alongside Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and placing rookie Dwight King with Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis. The revamped lines will stay together against the Blues, with Sutter looking for Penner to respond to postseason pressure the way he did while playing for the Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup championship team.

“He’s had a really tough year and so he’s got to draw on the experience he had before, winning, that he can still be a really good contributor,” Sutter said Friday. “And we liked him in the last series so we need him to have that again.”

Penner had seven goals and 17 points in 65 regular-season games but had a goal and an assist against Vancouver. King was scoreless and minus-two on defense against the Canucks.

Richards said Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock likes to match lines, and the Kings could match up better with the veteran Penner in their top two lines.

“I think Kinger and Penner are kind of similar players. They’re both big, strong, steady wingers,” Richards said. “Pens has obviously been here before and has a little more experience playing against more top lines.”

Room for improvement

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty identified each team’s strong forechecking game as crucial elements in this series.

“That’s where they create all their scoring chances,” he said. “They turn over pucks on the forecheck and then they get pucks to the net. It’s definitely the one key part we’ve really been paying attention to. We know the ways to beat the forecheck now and we just have to make sure we’re executing that.

“Then on our side, our forecheck is huge too. We need to get pucks in deep, make sure we’re finishing checks on their D-men and keeping pucks in and turning them over.”