Dustin Penner thinks game against Ducks will be a ‘big step’ for him

Capitals left wing Dustin Penner is still looking for his first goal after seven games since his trade from the Ducks. The veteran, who won the Stanley Cup with the Kings, makes his return on Tuesday night at the Honda Center.
(Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)

Usually, it’s Dustin Penner seeking to provide the creative response to a question.

But when the former Ducks forward was pulled off the Honda Center ice March 4 and told by General Manager Bob Murray he’d been traded to the Washington Capitals, Penner did the asking: Why?

“Cap room,” Murray replied.

Penner’s reunion season with the Ducks ended in a deal for a fourth-round draft pick the Ducks then dealt to the Dallas Stars for defenseman Stephane Robidas.

Penner and the Caps visit Anaheim on Tuesday night.

How surprised was Penner by the trade after scoring 13 goals with 19 assists in 49 games — mostly on the Ducks’ first line with old friends Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry?

“Tough to quantify, especially with the way I came here as a free agent.… [It was] a situation I hadn’t been in before,” Penner said of being traded during the season.

Did he take it as an embrace from a team that needed him or a slight from the team that discarded him?


“There’s many ways I took it,” Penner said. “I just try to settle on the best way.”

He said he anticipates Tuesday’s game will be “a big step” in the transition. In seven games for Washington (32-27-10), Penner has been used on multiple lines, contributing one assist for a team two points behind the New York Rangers for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

“It’s the same cliche. … I have a lot of friends on that team, won a Cup here [in 2007], blah, blah, blah.… [Being traded] is part of the job, a tough underbelly most don’t see,” Penner said.

With the Ducks, Penner said he “did everything they asked. I surpassed my point total [of the previous two years] in the first 40 games. If there was something I could’ve done differently to stay, I would have.”

Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said teammates were surprised by the move, adding “he was well-liked. … When he’s moving his legs, he’s real good. ... There were times when he was standing around....

“I’m sure he’ll be moving his legs real well [Tuesday].”

Penner, 31, said he respected that Murray had tough decisions to make at the trade deadline and understood his vulnerability as an unrestricted free agent.

“I seem to be a traveling gypsy, no offense to gypsies,” Penner said.

Still, he agreed “cold” was a good description for the move, calling it an “eye-opener for a lot of guys and the fans; they look for reasons in some cases for a guy to provide loyalty. It’s obviously not reciprocated.

” … That’s hindsight. You look forward now to where you are, what you need to do to help them win.”

Getting defensive

Robidas is eligible to make his Ducks’ debut Tuesday after recovering from a broken leg suffered in November, but Boudreau said he wasn’t sure he wanted to alter a defense that limited the Kings to one goal in Saturday’s victory.

Defenseman Cam Fowler, who left Friday’s game in Colorado with a leg injury after getting hit by Avalanche forward Patrick Bordeleau, will undergo an MRI exam Tuesday.



When: 7.

On the Air: TV: Prime Ticket. Radio: 830.

Etc.: Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL with 45 goals, five since his disappointing experience with Russia’s Olympic hockey team.