FORT WAYNE – Komets forward Matt Kennedy is still adjusting to his move from right wing to center three weeks into the team’s first ECHL season..
I’ve got to cover a lot more ice now, so I’ve got to get in game shape, said Kennedy, 23. It’s different (playing center), but it’s fun and I’m enjoying it. It’s a new thing, and it’s always fun to start something fresh.
Kennedy hadn’t played center before this season, but the Komets’ parent club, the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, wants him there because of a lack of strength in the middle.
He is scoreless in his first two games with Fort Wayne (2-1-1).
Kennedy hadn’t played a game at the AA level of hockey before last weekend; in 111 American Hockey League games, he had six goals and 21 points with Syracuse and Charlotte.
Kennedy, 6-foot-2, 203 pounds, is one of five players on assignment from the Ducks or their AHL affiliate in Norfolk, Va.
He’s a great player, Komets center Colin Chaulk said. He’s solid, works hard. It will be a little adjustment for those guys. Things are played a little bit differently here. It’s a little bit slower. The systems are a little bit different. But he’s worked hard, and we’re glad to have him.
We just hope the guys here from Norfolk help us win some games, and we’ll do our best to make sure their time here is enjoyable. When you’re winning, everyone is happy.
The slower pace allowed Kennedy to see a lot more open ice last weekend, and he is adjusting to having more responsibilities as a center. He also has to take faceoffs, and he is getting help from longtime NHL player Todd Marchant, the Ducks’ director of player development.
It’s different (in the ECHL). The pace just isn’t quite the same, said Kennedy, who was a fifth-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009 after he averaged more than a point in the Ontario Hockey League. You have more time and space out here. But at the same time, guys are coming from different places. It’s different. I have a little better idea what to do now, after the weekend, which was a bit of an eye opener.
Last weekend, the Komets lost 1-0 in an overtime shootout at Kalamazoo, Mich., then defeated Evansville 4-3 in an overtime shootout at Memorial Coliseum. In that game, forward Chris Auger was lost for the season to knee injuries suffered on an Aaron Gens hit. Kennnedy is one of the players who will have to pick up the scoring slack.
I’ve been treated well since I’ve been here. The fans have been great. The atmosphere on Saturday was a lot of fun, said Kennedy, born in Richmond Hill, Ontario. It’s a nice change to come here. Sometimes you come to the (United) States and the crowds aren’t the same, but you can’t say enough good things about the Fort Wayne fans.
But they are demanding of their centers, and he knows he’ll have to improve quickly.
I’m pretty hard-nosed and defensively responsible. I like to bang pucks in around the net and shoot as much as possible. I just play hard and play smart and hopefully chip in offensively, Kennedy said. (But) I’ve been a winger my whole life, so it’s been a bit of an adjustment.
They say that’s where they want me and that’s where they need me. So I have to be working on that.
Note: The Komets’ game Nov. 3 at Kalamazoo, Mich., was moved to 3 p.m. and will be the first part of a doubleheader with the Junior K-Wings of the North American Hockey League.