Ex-Penguins winger Kennedy 'emotional' about return
Tyler Kennedy came home Wednesday, and that might be conflicting.
Kennedy uncharacteristically opened up about his time in Pittsburgh, the devastation he felt after being traded and the frustration of being a healthy scratch last spring.
The 27-year-old winger loves this city but sounded happy to have been traded in June to the San Jose Sharks, who face the Penguins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Consol Energy Center.
“It's definitely a little bit of an emotional roller coaster,” he said. “I was here for six years. I grew up a lot as a player and as a person. Pittsburgh was a second home to me.”
Now it's part of his past.
Kennedy was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the 2013 postseason and also was scratched for Games 2 and 3 of the Eastern Conference final against Boston.
The benching took a toll.
“Not playing kind of hurts,” Kennedy said. “But you've got to remember who you are and that you know how to play hockey. It was frustrating. But that was their decision and something they need to stand by.”
Although Kennedy still speaks with a hint of animosity about the spring, he refused to criticize Penguins general manager Ray Shero or coach Dan Bylsma.
“I've moved on,” he said. “Tomorrow's a new day. There's no hard feelings. Dan was always up-front with me. So was the rest of the staff. Ray was always up-front with me. There's a lot of respect there.”
Kennedy broke into the NHL in 2007, scored two crucial goals in the 2009 Stanley Cup final — including the winner against Detroit in Game 6 at Mellon Arena — and peaked during the 2010-11 season, scoring a career-high 21 goals.
The Penguins rewarded him with a two-year, $4 million deal the following summer, but he failed to reach that level again.
“I knew it was time for me to move on,” Kennedy said. “When I got traded, I kind of knew it was coming. At the end-of-year meetings, Ray was pretty straight forward.
“It was a pretty emotional day, leaving Pittsburgh and a lot of great buddies. Pittsburgh is such a great city. Great people here. The fans are passionate. Just walking around, people are like, ‘Hey, Kennedy, what's up?' I'll hold that close to me for a long time.”
Kennedy has three goals this season playing with center Joe Pavelski and left wing Martin Havlat. The Sharks own hockey's best record (19-3-5), and Kennedy has grown fond of San Jose.
The Ontario native even has developed a taste for the warm California weather.
“It's 75 and sunny every day,” he said. “We go anywhere else, and you're freezing.”
Bylsma offered a kind assessment of Kennedy.
“I've been with TK in Wilkes-Barre and here in Pittsburgh,” Bylsma said. “He's seen me grow as a coach. I've seen him grow as a player. A lot of fond memories.”
“The Winter Classic. The Stanley Cup. I met my future wife here. Just the little things. Going through the ups and downs with the team. Just going through the struggles. I'll never forget it,” Kennedy said. “A lot of people helped me through my career here. ... I have a lot of people to thank.”