Dustin Penner joked that he’s been able to recapture the success he had six years ago, when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup, partly because of the new lightweight equipment he’s found.
“Funny guy,” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Less of a belly is the lightweight equipment.”
The Ducks hoped for this when they signed the 31-year-old free agent after his disappointing two-plus seasons with the Kings.
Since Penner has been paired with his 2006-07 linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the good times have returned.
“That’s exactly how it feels,” Getzlaf said. “The way we used to play together and work off each other. ‘Penns’ has done more than enough work to skate the way he is with that energy.”
The Ducks (14-3-1), who play Sunday at home against Vancouver, are off to the best start in the NHL this season. And Penner leads the league with a goal differential of plus-18 when he’s on the ice.
Despite missing seven games — the first a healthy scratch in the season opener for conditioning concerns, and the next six after a concussion — Penner has three goals and nine assists and the Ducks are 10-0-1 when he plays.
He had a goal and three assists in Friday’s 6-2 rout of Buffalo as the Ducks improved to 7-0 at home.
Yes, Kings fans, this is the same guy who was a combined minus-9 in his last two seasons and once missed a game after wrenching his back as he sat down to eat a stack of pancakes.
After “some strong suggestions from management … he’s in good shape,” Boudreau said. “That’s the biggest thing from the beginning of the season to now. He’s healthy, in shape and he’s confident. All of those things add up. And the line itself is moving the puck around quite well.”
It helps the plus/minus to be paired with Getzlaf, who is ranked second behind Sidney Crosby in the league with 22 points, and Perry, off to a 10-goal start too.
But Penner, who scored 29 goals in 2006-07 before leaving for a rich deal in Edmonton that included two minus-12 seasons, has also made defensive strides.
Sometimes plus/minus “is a misnomer, but I don’t think it is with him,” Boudreau said. “I’ve watched his responsibility defensively, and he’s done a really good job.”
Penner said his staggering plus-18 — the largest number through 11 games since Pittsburgh’s Sergei Zubov did it in 1995-96 — is “more from the way the team’s playing.”
“I’m getting there, playing better personally. Anybody who plays with them is set up for success. I’m trying to add elements to my game that maybe weren’t there before.”
He mentioned factors behind the first line’s success. “We share the puck well, hold onto it for longer than a couple seconds. We make teams expel that energy trying to get it off of us.
“We try to create momentum every shift. That adds to the other three lines. You see there’s a general confidence among the team that’s building even when we don’t score. And it snowballs from there.”
VS. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
When: 5 p.m.
Where: Honda Center.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830.
Record vs. Canucks (2013): 2-1.
Etc.: New Canucks Coach John Tortorella inherited talent that is shining. Goalie Roberto Luongo has two shutouts, and Henrik Sedin had 20 points (17 assists) before Saturday’s game versus the Kings.