Two weeks after last season ended, Dustin Penner reported for offseason conditioning. He checked his workout schedule for the day, rubbed his eyes to make sure he was seeing correctly and then looked again.
The first exercise on the agenda: 1,000 yards of lunges.
“I thought that was a lot,” Penner said.
He walked into the office of recently departed strength and conditioning coach Tim Adams, who confirmed it wasn’t a mistake. Just wait until July, he added.
“Sure enough, in July I was doing 2,000 yards of lunges,” Penner said.
Penner stuck with the program, however, sweating it out five to six hours a day. He tried to keep pace with defenseman Matt Greene, known for his off-ice work ethic and commitment to conditioning, and measured himself against Greene’s workout performance.
Before long, Penner’s body fat began to drop and his muscle mass increased, adding up to about 10 pounds of weight loss.
Feeling stronger and lighter on his skates, Penner's itching to get started again, intent on showing the Kings that he’s still the player who averaged 25 goals during his first four seasons in the NHL, and not the one who managed just three goals and eight points in 25 games following his trade to the Kings in late February.
He’ll get his first opportunity Friday, when the Kings report to Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo for physicals, followed by the start of training camp Saturday.
Penner, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound left wing, said much of his motivation arises from the rollercoaster career he has experienced in the NHL so far.
“I don’t know if some of the younger guys can appreciate it,” said Penner, who will turn 29 this month. “But for me, who has been through the ups and downs of an NHL career, and being on a team that finished dead last three or four years in a row, the excitement I feel now is unparalleled.”
Penner already notices similarities with the team he played for in his first full season in the NHL. As a rookie in 2006-07, he helped the Ducks win the Stanley Cup title. He looks around at the skill and experience on the Kings roster and is reminded of that year in Anaheim, when he shared a locker room with Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
“But I was young,” Penner said. “I didn’t know what I was getting into, didn’t have any expectations, really, in comparison to what I do now, or what I have now for myself, being a middle-aged veteran and being on a team that has so much talent and potential and is right on the cusp.”
After winning the Stanley Cup, he signed with the Oilers, where he spent much of the next 4 ½ years at the bottom of the standings. Back in Southern California, Penner said he’s feeling fortunate to be on a playoff contender again.
“After I won the Cup, I didn’t think I would win it every year, but I thought I’d always be in the hunt,” he said. “You learn awfully quickly how that’s not the case.”
He also learned that 1,000 yards of lunges isn’t so difficult after all.