Penguins notebook: Kennedy struggling to find net in San Jose
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Tyler Kennedy is happy to be in San Jose, and he likes his teammates, the California weather and the Sharks coaching staff.
He isn't so happy, though, with his lack of production.
Kennedy, in his first season wearing an NHL sweater other than the Penguins, has found goals hard to accumulate. He has scored just four times in 52 games for the Sharks this season.
“It's a little tough going to another team,” Kennedy said. “There have been some hiccups here and there. I'm just trying to focus on these last 20 games and hoping to get my game going.”
Perhaps more troubling is the overall downward trend for Kennedy when looking at his career numbers.
Kennedy peaked during the 2010-11 season with the Penguins, when he scored 21 goals. That production earned Kennedy a two-year, $4 million contract from Penguins general manager Ray Shero.
Since then, Kennedy has scored only 21 goals in 158 games.
His 21 goals during the 2010-11 season were attributable in part to the extra playing time he received that season. Kennedy was on the top power play and on the Penguins' top line at times in the second half of that season because of season-ending injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Since returning to a third-line NHL role, Kennedy has enjoyed some big moments — he scored arguably the most important goal of the first round of the playoffs last season for the Penguins, giving them a 1-0 lead in their Game 5 victory over the New York Islanders — but generally has struggled.
The Sharks' system hasn't led to a rebirth of Kennedy's offensive touch.
Although Kennedy doesn't mind the Sharks' approach to hockey, he did say there were many differences. San Jose plays closer to the vest.
“It's been an adjustment,” Kennedy said. “They play a closer game, a lot more puck support. They worry more here about getting the puck out and taking care of their own end.”
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and Nashville's Colin Wilson engaged in a fairly spirited fight Tuesday. Both ended up bloody during the fight, though not because of punches being thrown.
Bortuzzo leveled Wilson with a big hit before the fight. During the impact, Bortuzzo's head collided with Wilson's head, which is what caused the bleeding.
“It didn't feel too good,” Bortuzzo said. “But the punches from him aren't what caused the blood. He didn't catch me with a shot that would have made me bleed.”
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The Penguins have tinkered with their defensive pairings in recent days, and the players on the blue line don't seem to mind.
With defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin out of the lineup for an extended period, coach Dan Bylsma made alterations, splitting up defenseman Matt Niskanan and his normal partner, Olli Maatta, for a brief time.
“Stuff like that isn't a big deal,” Bortuzzo said. “For me, personally, I've played with a lot of different guys this season, and it's probably a good thing to get to know how to play with different guys.”
Most of the Penguins did not participate in an optional morning skate. However, a couple of notable names — including Malkin, right wing James Neal, defenseman Rob Scuderi and defenseman Brooks Orpik — did not skate.
Despite the grind of the recent Olympic tournament, Crosby, left wing Chris Kunitz, left wing Jussi Jokinen and Maatta participated in the skate.