Pens forward filling into new role

| Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Go ahead and say it. Scream it, long and loud.


Feel better• Feel good?

Tyler Kennedy certainly does, and the reason has nothing to do with a professional wrestler.

He arrived in Sweden with a contract extension (two years through 2010-11) as new as his position (center), feeling much more a part of the Penguins than he did as a rookie last season.

"It just seems like I fit in with the guys more, even over just these few weeks (of training camp)," Kennedy said. "I'm definitely more comfortable. I'm not the new guy anymore."

Kennedy termed his rookie season "a definite 9."

"The only way it could have been a 10 is if we'd won the Stanley Cup," he said.

Speaking of 10 -- Kennedy said he is not worried at all that he is sitting on that number of NHL goals since March 16. He has not scored in 29 games, including an 0-for-playoffs disappointment.

Droughts like that have buried young players, and Kennedy knows it.

Or does he?

"I don't think (confidence is an issue)," Kennedy said. "It sure isn't now. (The contract extension) shows they have faith in me."

General manager Ray Shero has spent the past two summers securing the long-term services of his star-laced nucleus. He called extending Kennedy, whose rights the Penguins would have owned even after his contract expired upon season's end, "something we were going to do anyway."

But not simply because Kennedy's extension buys out a year of arbitration eligibility, giving the Penguins some measure of cost certainty.

"Guys like (Kennedy), we figure they're going to be part of this organization going forward," Shero said. "He's a guy that was drafted by the Penguins (99th overall in 2004), came up through (the system), played a big role for our team last year and gained some confidence.

"He'll have a bigger role moving forward over the next few years."

With each passing day of practice, which resumes for the Penguins today after Tuesday's with team-bonding activities, Kennedy's role seems likely to bring boosts of energy as a fourth-line center.

About three years have passed since he last skated at his natural position, said Kennedy, who worked on the right wing last season. Still, coach Michel Therrien is warm to the idea that Kennedy might make better use of his speed in the middle.

"He could play the wing, but right now we want him to learn center because there's a spot open with Jordan (Staal) moving to left wing," Therrien said. "It's a different game to be a center. It's demanding. (Centers) have to be really responsible defensively and provide energy.

"But he's got some good models in front of him."

Safe to say that nobody in the organization expects Kennedy to become Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin -- or No. 3 center Max Talbot, for that matter -- quite yet.

The Penguins probably would be thrilled to simply play a video-board tribute from popular pro wrestler Ken "Mr. Kennedy" Kennedy sometime this month.

Ken Kennedy filmed a vignette to be shown after Tyler Kenndy's goals at Mellon Arena late last season upon learning from an article in the Tribune-Review that Penguins fans had taken to shouting his catchphrase - "KENNEDY!" - anytime Tyler Kennedy touched the puck.

Tyler Kennedy is not waiting with baited breath to see the video.

"I plan on scoring a goal again in the NHL," he said. "But I'm just not a guy that likes to be the center of attention."

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