Q: I've always wondered why Tyler Kennedy doesn't get a shot to work more on the top lines. It seems he has the speed and scoring touch; does he lack the pedigree, and/or some other quality? Nothing against Pascal Dupuis, but his shot selection/ability seems to change with the tides, and he often appears miscast alongside an assist machine like Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin.
Patrick Weld, Poolesville, Md.
MOLINARI: Until the Penguins start to produce goals at the expected pace, or something close to it, everyone up to and including backup goalie Dany Sabourin probably can be viewed as a candidate to turn up on the No. 1 line at some point. Unfortunately for the Penguins, Sabourin likely wouldn't be much less productive there than some of the forwards have been to date.
Kennedy does skate well and isn't shy about operating in high-traffic areas, which are qualities that would serve him well on any line, but he doesn't have the goal-scoring history to suggest that he would put up significant numbers on Crosby's wing. Kennedy got a couple of goals during the Penguins' season-opening victory against Ottawa, including the overtime winner, but, going into last night's game at Phoenix, had not scored since, a drought of nine games. It's certainly possible that he'd be more productive if placed in a role where scoring was a priority, but nothing on his resume indicates he's capable of finding the net with real regularity.
Before facing the Coyotes, he had 12 goals in 65 career games in the NHL, and during four seasons with Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey League, scored as many as 22 just once. Kennedy is a nice, fairly versatile part for coach Michel Therrien to have at his disposal, but there isn't much evidence to support the belief that he'd be the answer to the Penguins' goal-scoring problems on the wing.
Q: Regarding the few third-period breakdowns so far, there are many reasons those have come about. Is there any thought that not having the West Point conditioning like in the previous two years could be contributing?
George Pavlic, Ohio Township
MOLINARI: The Penguins did some physically demanding things during their time at the U.S. Military Academy in 2006 and 2007, but nothing that would have a long-term impact on their conditioning. Indeed, a two- or three-day visit to any location, regardless of the training regimen employed there, isn't going to have a lasting effect on performance, in a physical sense.
The West Point trips were not made not with the objective of enhancing the players' conditioning, but for the purpose of team-building, to develop camaraderie and reinforce the importance of working together. Going there again this fall simply wasn't practical because of the shortened training camp and season-opening trip to Sweden, but it's probably a stretch to suggest that not going back to the Academy has had a significant, negative impact on their play to date.
Q: Now that the Pens are on their four-game road trip, I got to thinking about what the goal of a playoff-caliber team would be, regarding the number of points it would realistically target for the season's road games. I came up with 40, with a target of 60 for home games. That makes a solid goal of 100 points, which almost assuredly gets you not only in the playoffs, but possibly the No. 1 seed. Does this seem reasonable for a quality, playoff team?
Bill Holt, Wheeling, W. Va.
MOLINARI: While it isn't often expressed quite that way, your formula pretty much reflects the conventional wisdom in the NHL. Playoff-caliber teams generally are expected to play .500 on the road, and to pick up about three-quarters of the points available at home. A club doing that would earn 41 points on the road and 61 or 62 at home, which would put its total at 102 or 103.
Earning 100 points should, as you suggest, get a team into the playoffs -- Boston claimed the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference this spring with 94 -- but probably wouldn't translate to a top seed. Two Eastern teams (Montreal and the Penguins) and three in the West (Detroit, San Jose and Anaheim) ran up totals ranging from 102 to 115 last season.