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Darryl Sutter won’t play Dustin Penner until he works his “ass off”

Darryl Sutter

Los Angeles Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter, center, looks on from the bench as Dustin Penner, from left, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams are seated in front during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)


Relatively speaking, Dustin Penner has been playing a little bit better the last couple months. The key phrase is “relatively speaking,” though, as he started off the 2011-12 season as a chunkier, less-compensated version of Scott Gomez.

The burly winger has been a healthy scratch for the last two games and only received 11:25 minutes of ice time in his last appearance, so it seems like he’s floating out of the Los Angeles Kings’ picture again. Matt Reitz caught up with Darryl Sutter, who provided a very blunt assessment of Penner:

Q: What’s the scenario for Penner right now? What’s the message or what do you need to see?

Sutter: “Work your ass off. Then you get a chance to play again. If you don’t, you don’t. It’s pretty clear.”

Q: Is he back to square one as far as that’s concerned?

Sutter: “I think when you’re told to work your ass off, that IS square one.”

So, yeah ... Penner’s not exactly in a great place right now. If the Kings want to unload the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent before the trade deadline, it’ll be pretty tough for GM Dean Lombardi to talk up the big winger’s value as anything more than an expiring contract.

That expiring contract is the most surprising part of this equation, though. You’d think if anything would get Penner motivated, it would be the prospect of earning another lucrative contract.

Instead, Penner’s game has been as flat as, well, a pancake.