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Kennedy gets first taste of Rangers

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
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It has not been the kind of summer Tim Kennedy expected, but the newest Ranger is happy that as fall approaches he has found a new home on Broadway.

Coming off a strong rookie season with his hometown Buffalo Sabres, Kennedy filed for salary arbitration during the off-season. After enduring, in his own words, “the unpleasant experience” of arbitration -- and winning his case -- Kennedy was ready to begin preparing for the upcoming season with the Sabres.

Buffalo, however, surprised Kennedy by opting to buy out his contract, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. Several weeks later, after being courted by numerous teams, he decided to sign with the Rangers.

Tim Kennedy was a little bleary-eyed from all the early-morning travel on Thursday, but he was very happy to be joining his new Rangers teammates at the Madison Square Garden Training Center.
“It’s been a little stressful this off-season,” said the 24 year-old Kennedy. “But after a month of speaking with teams I decided the Rangers were the right fit. Now that I have found my team, everything is good.”

Kennedy became a Ranger earlier this week, and on Thursday he joined his new teammates at the MSG Training Center for an informal on-ice workout. No worse for wear after waking up at 3 a.m. on Thursday to catch a flight into New York, Kennedy displayed the quick feet and gritty edge he is known for during three-on-three scrimmages.

“I’m a little tired from waking up so early, but I felt that it was important to get down here, start to get to know the guys, the team, and all of that,” said Kennedy. “I am eager to show (the coaches) what I can do and fill whatever role they want from me.”

Kennedy got to know two current Rangers -- forward Brandon Dubinsky and defenseman Matt Gilroy -- when all three played for Team USA at the 2010 World Championships in Germany last spring. In fact Kennedy says that he turned to Gilroy during his free agency to find out more about the Rangers organization.

When the 5-foot-10, 173-pound forward was on the verge of accepting a deal from the Rangers, he reached out to another hockey friend, Montreal Canadiens winger Mathieu Darche, and asked him about playing for head coach John Tortorella, who was Darche’s boss in Tampa Bay during the 2007-08 season.

“(Darche) told me that (Tortorella) is a coach that is tough, but fair, and that he expects a lot of his players,” Kennedy said. “He said he’s a good coach and he’s a proven winner. That was enough for me.”

A year ago, the former Michigan State star tied for 12th among all NHL rookies with 26 points, just two behind Rangers center Artem Anisimov. Kennedy potted 10 goals in 78 games, including three game-winning goal to rank third among all NHL freshmen in that category.

One of his game-winners came on the first goal he scored in the National Hockey League. On Oct. 28 Kennedy beat Martin Brodeur on a wraparound in a 4-1 Sabres win at the Prudential Center.

He also received his first playoff experience last spring, notching an assist in his initial postseason game on April 15 against Boston and finishing with three points (1-2-3) in six playoff contests.

Success against Eastern Conference opponents is something the Rangers would love to see Kennedy carry forward into this season.

“I am still in the conference I played in last year, so I am comfortable with that, and it’s still close to home for me,” said Kennedy. “I was trying to stay in this conference. Going out west would have been a whole different ballgame as far as the travelling and the teams. So it’s just another reason why the Rangers were the best fit for me.”

And whether that fit is playing center or on the wing -- both of which he played for Buffalo last season -- Kennedy is not concerned. His only focus is contributing to the Rangers’ overall success this season.

“I think it’s good that I can play both as far as making the team because the coaches have options with me,” he said. “I have no preference. Whatever they want me to play, I will play. I just want to play.”
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