DALLAS -- When the Dallas Stars acquired Cody Eakin in a trade with the Washington Capitals on draft night for Mike Ribeiro, the general consensus was that the young center who appeared in 30 games for the Capitals as a rookie would center the Stars' fourth line this season.
And through Dallas' first two games, that's exactly where the 21-year-old skated for Stars second-year coach Glen Gulutzan, on the fourth line alongside Ryan Garbutt and Reilly Smith.
But before Tuesday's game at the Detroit Red Wings, Gulutzan informed Eakin he was flipping him and Tom Wandell, who had been centering Dallas' second line in the first two games. And in short, it was a move that paid off as Eakin assisted on both Stars goals, which were scored by Michael Ryder, in a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
"I wasn't really expecting it, but come game time it was nice to see that. I just keep playing the way I play -- get them the puck, create energy, be the first one on the forecheck, get them the puck," Eakin said of playing alongside Ryder and veteran Ray Whitney. "A couple of times they turned a little bit of nothing into something. It was a great opportunity for me. Hopefully I continue to work hard and stay on that line for a while.”
Of course, the man who made the call to put him on the second line couldn't be happier with how his decision turned out and plans to keep him alongside Ryder and Whitney for the time being.
"He's got great speed. He's got some grit. He plays the game hard and he has some offensive ability. He can think the game and he plays on both sides," Gulutzan said. "He's just got to get experience. The more experience he gets, the better player he'll become. Now it's not just about one time, it's about keeping that moving forward and being consistent. He was in the American (Hockey) League. He's just got to be that at this level."
As one of a number of young Stars players who played for the club's AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, during the lockout, Eakin, who had 24 points (12 goals) in 35 games in the AHL, definitely hit the ground running for the start of training camp and hasn't looked back.
"Yeah, I think it was definitely nice to be playing. I think it'd be a little tougher coming off not playing like a lot of the guys have. Last year, too, helped me a lot with not being shell-shocked or a little caught off guard with how fast it is," he said. "Obviously there's a lot of room to improve. I don't think I've reached my goal yet of having a really, really good game yet. I think the legs are there from playing so many games. It's going to be a busy stretch, just got to make sure I'm ready to go."