Sharks' Kennedy should welcome visit by Sens

Sharks' Kennedy should welcome visit by Sens
October 12, 2013, 12:45 pm
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Tyler Kennedy has two assists in his first four games with the Sharks. (USATSI)

SAN JOSE -- The Ottawa Senators will make their one and only SAP Center appearance on Saturday night, and one Sharks player who should be happy to see them is winger Tyler Kennedy.

The Sharks’ newcomer has 16 points in 20 career games against the Sens, including 11 goals. That's tied for the most goals the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin has scored against a single opponent (he’s also scored 11 times against Philadelphia).

“I’ve had good luck in the past, just from hard work,” Kennedy said.

Linemate Logan Couture said: “I guess I’ll be giving him the puck tonight.”

Kennedy made the best play of his brief Sharks career on Thursday night in Vancouver, when he fought off a pair of Canucks defenders in the offensive zone corner before feeding Patrick Marleau for a one-timer. The quick release and perfect shot by Marleau shot gave the Sharks a 3-1 second period lead, restoring a two-goal cushion that had been cut in half less than two minutes earlier.

The 27-year-old Kennedy has two assists through his first four games with the Sharks after a draft day trade brought him to San Jose in June.

“I think he’s starting to feel at home a little bit more,” head coach Todd McLellan said after the Vancouver game. “For him, since the regular season has started, he stayed on one line and he’s played wing. During exhibition season we experimented with him in the middle a little bit and I don’t know if that helped him or hurt him. But, right now he’s looking comfortable, feels good with his linemates, understands how we want to play, and he’s really contributing.”

The Kennedy-Couture-Marleau line features three of the faster skaters on the team, providing an aggressive forecheck.

“The hardest part is trying to get in on the forecheck and beat [Kennedy and Couture] to the puck,” Marleau said with a smile, when asked about Kennedy. “Him and ‘Cooch’ both do a great job getting in on the forecheck and getting to loose pucks, and the more you get to play with a new guy on your line, the more chemistry you get. It’s still early, but we feel we can do a lot more.”

While Kennedy is having success, he’s still looking for his first goal with the Sharks, who have already seen 10 different players tally at least once. Perhaps some familiarity and success against Ottawa in the past will help him to get that monkey off of his back.

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The Senators will go with backup goalie Robin Lehner tonight rather than Craig Anderson. Lehner, who has played in 25 career NHL games, will be making his season debut. It will be his first-ever game against San Jose.

Jason Spezza, who missed Ottawa’s 3-2 overtime loss in Los Angeles with a groin injury, will play. The team’s captain and top line center will skate between a couple of players Sharks fans should be familiar with in Milan Michalek and former Duck Bobby Ryan.

Antti Niemi will start for the Sharks for the fifth straight game, and no lineup changes are expected from San Jose. That means Matt Pelech, who scored his first career goal in Vancouver on Thursday, remains on the fourth line wing.