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Trip to San Antonio shook up Kennedy

Tim Kennedy awoke to a pair of jolts. The first shook his world. The second stirred his career.

The South Buffalo native was asleep in San Antonio on Oct. 20, getting a night of rest for his upcoming American Hockey League game. An earthquake suddenly jostled him out of bed. A phone call soon after rustled him out of the minor leagues and back to the Florida Panthers.

"It was kind of surreal," Kennedy recalled Saturday. "We had a game that day down in San Antonio, and I got woken up at like 4:30 in the morning because there was like a 3.6 quake in San Antonio. An hour later I got the call saying you're coming up.

"My wife looked on the Internet and she said, 'You're playing the Sabres.' I was just like, 'Oh, great. This is going to be fun,' " Kennedy said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

"But it was nice. Obviously, we didn't win the game [a 3-0 loss to Buffalo], so it was disappointing, but I got to see some faces that I saw in August and didn't know when I was going to see again when I was leaving. It's just nice."

Kennedy saw plenty of folks from Buffalo again this weekend. The Panthers arrived in town Friday and played the Sabres on Saturday in First Niagara Center.

"It's nice," Kennedy said before his team's 3-2 victory. "It just happened to work out that it's on the schedule, but I think that's where it ends. You get to see your family and friends, and that's where it ends because this is my job and I want to stay here, so I'm going to prove to them that I have what it takes."

Kennedy entered his hometown with one goal and a minus-2 rating in four games with the Panthers. He has a fan in Florida coach Kevin Dineen, who was his bench boss with the Portland Pirates in 2008-09.

"He's an honest coach," Kennedy said. "He's not going to hide any words. He's going to tell you how he feels about your play and what you can improve on."

Dineen helped the former Sabres forward get through a tough time last season. Kennedy signed with the New York Rangers after the Sabres bought out his contract. The Rangers, who were near the salary cap, sent him to Hartford of the AHL, where he had 42 points in 53 games.

"It was not a good experience," Kennedy said. "I don't want to say lies on their part, but just stuff that came out. They're a team that's up against the cap and they won't put me on re-entry because even though my contract's so low [$550,000], even the slightest bit would put them over the cap. They didn't want to risk that, so I was stuck in the minors the whole year no matter what."

The Panthers acquired Kennedy in late February in exchange for defenseman Bryan McCabe. Kennedy had one assist in six games with the Panthers and seven helpers in 14 games with their minor-league affiliate, then in Rochester. He signed a one-year deal worth $550,000 with Florida this season, and he hopes the days in the minors are over.

"I was down there with some guys that were in the NHL for years," Kennedy said. "Wade Redden, I became good friends with him. He just told me that this is just one snapshot of your career, it's not your whole career. Don't let one year ruin your whole career that you can have."

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Sabres forward Jochen Hecht returned to the ice Saturday for an optional morning skate, one day after sitting out because of concussion symptoms.

Hecht visited a chiropractor Friday.

"It takes away some of the stiffness of my neck and some of the discomfort I have back there that might cause the headaches," he said.

email: jvogl@buffnews.com