On the road for much of his rookie season in the American Hockey League, Tim Kennedy was just happy to be home in Buffalo for the holidays.
His best gift, however, may have arrived after he returned to Portland with his team.
Flying back to join the AHL Pirates after Christmas, the 22-year-old winger found that he had been recalled by the Buffalo Sabres to make his NHL debut on Saturday against the New York Islanders.
More importantly for Kennedy, however, was the fact that his first game in the League would be with his hometown team in the Blue and Gold.
“I couldn’t sleep last night,” Kennedy said of the opportunity. “There were a lot of jitters out there today.”
The Buffalo native logged 11 minutes of ice time, registering a shot and a hit as the Sabres claimed a 4-3 shootout win at HSBC Arena.
“He moved the puck well, is a smart player and has a bright future here,” Jason Pominville
said, who served as Kennedy’s linemate along with Jochen Hecht
Kennedy not only was paired with one of the Sabres’ top tandems, he also received the nod as the starting line for the contest.
“I didn’t expect that at all. That was just one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been dreaming about this my whole life and for it to come true is just unreal.”
“He drew a penalty, went hard to the net a couple of times,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff said of the rookie. “I tried to put him in a pretty good situation. He had to be pretty excited… a thrill for all of his family and friends. You can chalk that up as a good game though, and a win. Your first game being part of a game is great thing, and great for Tim.
“It was unbelievable. That is something I will remember my whole life,” Kennedy said. “Not many kids get the chance to do it… I can’t put that into words right now.”
Kennedy is second on the Pirates in scoring with 27 points (5+22) in 29 games this season, his first year in the AHL. His 22 assists lead all rookies, and his 27 points are second behind the 33 scored by Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux.
The winger played three years at Michigan State, finishing with 105 points (42+63) in 113 games. He led the Spartans in scoring for his last two seasons, scoring 43 points in 42 games during each campaign. In 2007-08, he led the team in all offensive categories, including 9 PPG’s and 5 GWG’s.
Kennedy played youth hockey in the Buffalo area, and won gold with the Western Division in the 2002 and 2003 Empire State Games. Prior to attending Michigan State, he spent two seasons with the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL.
He was acquired in a draft day trade with Washington on July 30, 2005, after being selected by the Capitals in the sixth round (181st overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.