FORT WAYNE – Komets forward Matt Kennedy is still adjusting to his move from right wing to center three weeks into the teams first ECHL season..
Ive got to cover a lot more ice now, so Ive got to get in game shape, said Kennedy, 23. Its different (playing center), but its fun and Im enjoying it. Its a new thing, and its always fun to start something fresh.
Kennedy hadnt played center before this season, but the Komets parent club, the NHLs 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 hadnt 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.
Hes a great player, Komets center Colin Chaulk said. Hes solid, works hard. It will be a little adjustment for those guys. Things are played a little bit differently here. Its a little bit slower. The systems are a little bit different. But hes worked hard, and were glad to have him.
We just hope the guys here from Norfolk help us win some games, and well do our best to make sure their time here is enjoyable. When youre 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.
Its different (in the ECHL). The pace just isnt 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. Its 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.
Ive been treated well since Ive been here. The fans have been great. The atmosphere on Saturday was a lot of fun, said Kennedy, born in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Its a nice change to come here. Sometimes you come to the (United) States and the crowds arent the same, but you cant say enough good things about the Fort Wayne fans.
But they are demanding of their centers, and he knows hell have to improve quickly.
Im 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) Ive been a winger my whole life, so its been a bit of an adjustment.
They say thats where they want me and thats 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.