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Tim Kennedy: Welcome to Florida, now say Cheese

KENNEDY Tim Kennedy had been a member of the Florida Panthers for just over a day when he slipped on his game uniform and joined his teammates at center ice of the BankAtlantic Center Wednesday afternoon for the annual team picture.

“I felt kind of bad, being here just one day and then being there,'' Kennedy said, his freshly unwrapped Panthers hat tilted slightly to the left. “It was weird being in the picture.''

After the season Kennedy has had, he doesn't owe anyone an apology.

Until passing through re-entry waivers Tuesday afternoon, Kennedy had been banished to the minors. It wasn't because of his play, but because of financial semantics. Kennedy had a strong season in Buffalo last season, scoring 10 goals with 16 assists – with a goal and two assists in six playoff games.

During the offseason, he and the Sabres went to arbitration with Kennedy being awarded a $1 million contract for this season. The Sabres thought that was too much and bought him out, making him a free agent.

Kennedy ended up signing a one-way deal with the Rangers. After not making it out of camp, Kennedy was assigned to the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Hartford, Conn. He stayed there because the Rangers – who had signed him for $550,000 – would have likely lost him to another team if they tried bringing him up through re-entry waivers because a team who claimed him would only owe half of his salary.

The Panthers acquired Kennedy in the Bryan McCabe deal on Feb. 26 and sent him to their AHL affiliate in western New York for the same reason the Rangers did. Once AHL rosters were set on Monday, the Panthers brought him up knowing no other team would claim him. If one did, Kennedy couldn't play for them anyway.

“It's been a tough year mentally with everything that went on,'' Kennedy said. “I was really stuck in prison because they didn't want to lose me. No matter what I did, I was stuck. I didn't know that would happen when I signed.''

Going to the Panthers was a relief to Kennedy. Even though he had to report to Rochester, he knew the Panthers were going to bring him up when they could. And Kennedymsu having old friends like David Booth, Mike Weaver and Mike Santorelli on the team definitely helped.

“He's a great guy and a great teammate. He's going to help us out,'' said Booth, who played with Kennedy at Michigan State. “He can do good here. He's a smart player and is good positionally. He can score some goals, he got some big ones at Michigan State. I wasn't there but I set the tone for him.''

Kennedy now has 15 games to prove his worth. A restricted free agent, Kennedy – like many others – is playing for a contract.

“This is where I want to be next year,'' said Kennedy, who scored the game-tying goal and assisted on the winner in the 2007 national title game as a sophomore in 2007. “I didn't think the Rangers were going to let me go so I was happy to hear about the trade. I'm glad everything played itself out.''

-- DeBoer said injured wingers Evgeny Dadonov (finger) and Shawn Matthias (ankle) could be back in the lineup next week. Defenseman Alexander Sulzer (oblique) is out for the next 10 days.

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM 560
The series: Ottawa leads 37-26-3
The game: Ottawa, like Florida, appears to be in a race for last place in the league although the Panthers have eight more points. The Senators have played better lately since getting former Florida goalie Murray Craig Anderson from Colorado. Anderson, who left Florida in 2009, has started eight straight games for Ottawa and has won five – including a 5-1 victory over the Panthers. The Sens upset host New Jersey on Tuesday, the same night Florida stunned the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.