Tyler Kennedy earned a promotion to the NHL with his play in the American Hockey League.
And he apparently earned the right to stay for at least a little while with his performance during the Penguins' 4-3 shootout loss to Montreal at Mellon Arena Saturday.
While Kennedy's statistics were fairly ordinary -- he logged 11 minutes, 38 seconds of ice time (all at even strength) and was credited with two shots and two hits -- his play on a line with Mark Recchi and Adam Hall earned a favorable review from his new boss.
"Tyler has some speed," coach Michel Therrien said. "He has what we're looking for. He brought us some intensity, and I think he did a good job for his first game in the NHL. He brought us the energy we were looking for."
Those qualities, coupled with his productivity in the American Hockey League, got Kennedy to the NHL. How long he stays, general manager Ray Shero said, hinges on what he is able to contribute.
Because the Penguins had an opening on their 23-man roster, Kennedy does not automatically have to return to their minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre when Georges Laraque (groin) or Gary Roberts (respiratory illness) is ready to resume playing.
"It all depends on performance," Shero said. "You have to play well to stay in the lineup. ... He's a good prospect for us. This is all part of the process. We'll see how he does and how long he'll be here."
Although he was tied for the scoring lead in Wilkes-Barre, Kennedy did not assume he would be the one chosen when the Penguins needed a forward.
"I think you're always hoping, but it's always a surprise when you get called up for the first time," he said. "You never know when it's going to happen."
Kennedy, the Penguins' fourth-round draft choice in 2004, had three goals -- two of them winners -- and two assists in five games with the Baby Penguins. While his role was fairly limited Saturday, Wilkes-Barre coach Todd Richards uses him in virtually every even-strength and special-teams situation.
"He's really a guy who can do it all," said forward Erik Christensen, who played with Kennedy in Wilkes-Barre last season.
Christensen described Kennedy as "one of the fastest skaters, probably, in the organization," and that speed is one of the assets that made Kennedy -- along with fellow forwards Ryan Stone and Jonathan Filewich and defenseman Kristopher Letang -- a viable candidate to start this season in the NHL.
Kennedy, 21, did not have to clear waivers to be assigned to Wilkes-Barre, however, so sending him to the Baby Penguins when he didn't overwhelm management with his play was an easy call.
"Naturally, I was disappointed," Kennedy said. "You're always disappointed because you didn't make the team, but you take it with a grain of salt and just keep working hard and good things will happen."
While Kennedy did not look out of place Saturday, adrenaline almost certainly was a factor in the way he played. That won't be the case if he's in the league for more than a few games, however, and Kennedy will have to adjust to the differences in the game at this level.
And they are not limited to realizing that players do things faster and better in the NHL.
"It's more mental than anything," center Maxime Talbot said. "Don't be afraid of another player, don't be [intimidated] or anything."
Kennedy showed no signs of being awestruck during the Montreal game, so that might not be an issue for him. Once that hurdle is cleared, a rookie's focus can shift to the tangible aspects of the NHL game with which Kennedy will have to cope.
"He's definitely capable of adapting quickly, but everyone goes through some sort of [transition] into the league, and he's still a really young guy," Christensen said.
"He fits in perfectly with the team concept: A lot of speed, and he's gritty. I really don't think he would take that much time getting used to [the NHL]. I know he hasn't played for Mike [Therrien], so that will be different for him.
"But he won't take long, I don't think."
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com . First Published October 29, 2007 4:00 AM