UMaine was growth experience for Penner


UMaine was growth experience for Penner

NEWARK, NJ Its hard to believe that Dustin Penner all 6-foot-4, 249 pounds of him wasnt always the power forward behemoth that hes become in the NHL.

The 29-year-old is picking a good time to get hot in the playoffs with 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) in 15 games after an underachieving regular season with free agency awaiting him in the offseason.

Penner is known for his quick wit, and production in the playoffs has made him a regular Carrot Top with his teammates.

My level of play tends to make me funnier than I already am, said Penner, with a smile showing where one of his top teeth is missing in true hockey fashion. But Ive been lucky. Ive played with great players here. I played with great players in Edmonton, and the same thing my first few years in Anaheim.

My first two linemates in Anaheim were Sergei Federov and Teemu Selanne, so that gives you a pretty good idea. Its the curse of being a big guy, though. Playing with guys like that you stick out like a sore thumb on the ice if youre not moving your feet.

Thats been Penners modus operandi at times throughout his career, and the Cup Finals is where he originally made his name during his first full NHL season with the Anaheim Ducks during their Cup run in 2006-07. It got him a gigantic offer sheet from the Edmonton Oilers that had then-Anaheim GM Brian Burke in a bubbling rage, and settled him with the Oil prior to his arrival in Los Angeles.

But Penner wasnt always cut out of the power forward mold, and really was a late bloomer in most every respect. He was a 120-pound hockey weakling with bountiful skill and little size up until his junior year of high school, and then had to regain his coordination as he grew to be a very large man.

Ive been on both sides of the coin. I wasnt that big in high school. I was barely 5-foot-6 and 120-pounds. I shot up a lot at the end of high school and going into college, said Penner. I had some years where I had 100-something points. I was always trying to be a playmaker, passer and a scorer, and I remember Dan Bylsma telling me that I had to find some part of my game to hang my hat on and work on that.

Part of that for me was using my size and strength around the net and making sure I could always factor into the game that way. Its something I had to learn once I got to college and then beyond.

The University of Maine took a chance on Penner based largely on the advice of former assistant coachrecruiter Grant Standbrook, who saw the raw hockey talent long before it had blossomed into a pancake-eating force of nature in the NHL. Penner was playing for an MSU-Bottineau hockey program out of the NJCAA that barnstormed their way across North America, and gave the big winger a chance to be seen by hockey talent evaluators.

Standbrook and Maine head coach Tim Whitehead were known for finding diamonds in the rough for their college hockey program, and thats exactly what happened with Penner.

I never played junior hockey. I played junior hockey. We didnt even have a league. We were like the Harlem Globetrotters and wed go around playing anybody that would have us: junior varsity teams and junior mens teams. Anybody that would play us, said Penner. I red-shirted for a year at Maine and got a taste for a Division I hockey practice. Then I got a taste for the game and the energy from the crowds up there. There was also a high level of coaching from guys like Standbrook. He was really a great mentor for me.

Standbrook was the same coach that recruited Teddy Purcell, Jimmy Howard, Ben Bishop and a host of other players to the University of Maine, and Penner was another one of the educated risks that worked out for the Black Bears. Penner stayed on the Orono, Maine campus for only one season depositing 11 goals and 23 points in 43 games, and then moved on to professional hockey.

Now that educated risk is getting ready to potentially celebrate the second Stanley Cup win of his career if he and his Kings teammates can manage three more wins over the Devils.

Bruins recall Subban, Khudobin leaves practice early


Bruins recall Subban, Khudobin leaves practice early

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- The B’s goaltending carousel continued on Monday with young netminder Malcolm Subban getting recalled by the NHL club on emergency recall after Zane McIntyre was sent back down to the P-Bruins on Sunday. Subban started on the ice with the rest of the team at Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena along with Anton Khudobin, but the Russian backup goalie departed the ice early from Monday’s practice presumably with some kind of issue.

Subban has been pulled from two of his four starts for Providence this season, and the former first round pick is 0-3-1 with 4.50 goals against average and .846 save percentage after coming back from last season’s fractured larynx injury.

Tuukka Rask was once again absent from the practice ice, and hasn’t skated with the team since last playing in Thursday night’s win over the New Jersey Devils while clearly dealing with a lower body injury. So the Bruins ended Monday’s practice with only Subban between the pipes, and a swiss-cheese-like blue shooting tarp covering the other net for the B’s shooters.

With that in mind, here are the line combos and D-pairings for Monday’s practice with the Minnesota Wild coming to town on Tuesday:







Liles-C. Miller



Khudobin (left early) 

Haggerty: Carlo has been big answer to B's defensive questions


Haggerty: Carlo has been big answer to B's defensive questions

Things couldn’t have worked out any better for the Bruins to this point in the season when it comes to 19-year-old rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo.

While most of the other fellow rookies that debuted with Carlo a few weeks ago have been relegated to healthy scratch status or sent down to the AHL, the big, right shot defenseman continues to survive, and sometimes thrive, in a featured shutdown, top pair role with B’s captain Zdeno Chara.

Carlo’s ability to play both ends of the ice with strength, poise and intelligence for 21:59 of ice time per game is exactly what the Bruins needed headed into this season, and exactly what they didn’t get last season whether it was Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, Adam McQuaid or somebody else attempting to shut down top lines with Chara. The Bruins knew they had the need for a defenseman like Carlo, but really had no idea where that player was going to come from if they didn’t have a young player “pop” in training camp like Carlo did.

The teenaged D-man has clearly had a few rookie moments here or there through five games, so it hasn’t been 100 percent perfect by any means. But the 6-foot-5, 203-pound Carlo leads all rookies with a plus-7 rating in his five games while ranking top-10 in the NHL in the plus/minus category, he’s got a goal and two points in five games for perfectly acceptable production from a non-power play guy and he’s teamed with Chara to give the Bruins a D-men pairing they can rely on in all situations.

Those players are worth their weight in Black and Gold, and the rookie Carlo has been just that through the season’s first two weeks.  

“He’s a good man, and obviously is making a lot of good impressions,” said Chara. “My job is to do whatever I’m used to doing, and to make sure I can help him as much as I can. [The goal] is for us to compensate for each other and to work well together.”

Mission accomplished after five games with both Carlo and Chara among the most effective players on the Bruins roster thus far. With fewer than 20 games of pro hockey experience under his belt between last season and this year, Carlo has already earned the trust from Claude Julien to be on the ice protecting one goal leads in the final minute of regulation.

“He’s given me no reason to not want to put him out there. He’s got a great stick, great composure and he blocks shots. He does the right things. To me right now he’s not playing like a first year player, he’s playing like a player that’s been in the league for quite a while,” said Julien. “He’s very comfortable and confident, and he makes the plays out there that he needs to make.

“Like I said, he’s impressed the heck out of us with the way he’s so calm. A young player like that you would expect to be more nervous, but he’s shown us he’s the total opposite.”

That’s a rarity for any rookie player with the Bruins, and almost unheard of for a player as young and inexperienced as Carlo. But it’s always based on merit with Julien and his B’s coaching staff, and Carlo has earned all the trust and responsibility in the early going by rarely making a negative play on the ice that ends up hurting the team.

The win over the New Jersey Devils is a great example of Carlo’s resilience and confidence. He was on the ice for a goal against earlier in the game when a Kyle Palmieri point blast got through him, bounced off his skate and beat Tuukka Rask on a deflected puck that initially looked like it was going wide of the net. In the final minutes of the game with the Bruins guarding a slim one-goal lead, Carlo was on the ice protecting that slim lead with the Devils making a push. It was the same exact play facing Carlo, and this time he found a way to block Palmieri’s point blast and make certain the Bruins banked the two points with a regulation win.

Carlo certainly appreciated the second chance to make the good shutdown defensive play, and strives to show consistency as a rookie where peaks and valleys to his play will be expected.

“I feel like I kind of revived myself there with that big block,” said Carlo, who got immediate attaboys from Tuukka Rask one the puck was frozen after making the play. “It felt really good to contribute in that way at the end of the game. I feel like me being out there has a lot to do with being Zdeno’s partner and the coaching staff wanting him out there, but I love the adrenaline rush and the competition with the game on the line. It’s a great feeling.”

Quite simply the Bruins really can’t afford those peaks and valleys, fair or unfair, and the 19-year-old former second round pick seems to understand that. Instead they need Carlo to perfectly compliment 39-year-old Zdeno Chara as he’s done through five games and vice-versa with the B’s captain off to his best start in the last few years while not having to worry so much about what’s happening on his right side.

“I think I can definitely stand up and hold my own out there, but I’ve also got Zee [Chara] standing next to me and that makes me feel very protected,” said Carlo. “It’s been fantastic. Each game I think we build a little more chemistry and move the puck better, and we talk every single shift and on the ice so much.

“We’re getting really comfortable with each other’s playing styles, and I think we’re getting really comfortable out there. I’ve enjoyed the experience, and learning a great deal from his experience as well. I’m just starting to figure out that I can do this well, and now I’m just trying to stay consistent playing the way that I have been. Part of being a pro is being able to do it night in and night out. Going through the WHL I feel like I have a bit of a hand up on that because we played a 72-game schedule, so I’m used to playing three times a week. It’s a nice thing to have under my belt, but it’s just about trying to stay consistent here. I’m just going to work my hardest every night, and I’ve got plenty of time each day to get my body prepared to play.”

Carlo makes the second, game-securing play because there’s a mental and physical toughness to his game, and there is a very high learning curve for the youngster after tossed into a difficult position as a shutdown NHL D-man out of necessity. The Bruins probably should have been in big, big trouble along their back end again this season after failing to close a deal for Kevin Shattenkirk over the summer, and going into this season without upgrading whether it’s Jacob Trouba, Cam Fowler or some other young, puck-moving top-4 defenseman-type potentially available on the market.

They probably still need one of those established veteran players to truly upgrade their blue line into an area of strength rather than an area of question, but Carlo has minimized some of that dire need with his impressive first couple of weeks. The Bruins hope Carlo continues to become their version of similarly-sized St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, a third round pick that rapidly emerged on the Blues scene a couple of years ago with an impressive rookie season at 22 years old.

Carlo is three years younger than Parayko, so a virtuoso rookie season from the Bruins D-man would perhaps be even more impressive if he can maintain his current level of play all season.

The only way Carlo can do that is by going out and continuing to perform with his simple, strong and effective defenseman play as the opponents get better, and more offensively dangerous. The challenges will be steeper for Carlo as the Bruins step into a more challenging portion of the schedule. The B’s clearly believe Carlo is up to the task given his early play, and Boston’s potential to be an improved hockey club this season may ride heavily on whether the 19-year-old can keep it going.