There wasn't much fanfare when the Dallas Stars signed forward Adam Cracknell a few days into free agency this summer. His signing provided some depth at forward in the organization. But with the injuries piling up in the preseason for the Stars, that depth has become important, and that means opportunity for a guy like Cracknell.
"It's unfortunate that guys are having serious injuries, but a team signs guys for depth, and that's what we are here for," Cracknell said. "Now, I really have to go out there and show that I can play and contribute to this team."
And the Stars are hoping Cracknell can step up and run with the opportunity.
"You have to have those players," said Stars GM Jim Nill. "We're expecting him to play a big role for us and to grab it."
The 31-year-old forward, who played for both Vancouver and Edmonton last season, has made a good impression in training camp and the preseason so far. There's nothing fancy about Cracknell. The 6-3, 220-pound right-handed shot plays a simple game.
"He's just a solid, two-way player. He plays the game the right way; he is on the right side of the puck," Nill said. "He's a big body and he can play multiple positions, center, and the wing. He's a versatile player, knows his role and what he has to do."
This is Cracknell's eleventh season as a pro. He was a ninth-round pick by the Calgary Flames in 2004 and has carved out a good pro career, playing 134 games in the NHL and more than 500 in the AHL and ECHL. Sticking in the NHL has been tough, but last season was a good one for Cracknell. He spent the entire season in the NHL, playing 52 games with the Canucks and Oilers.
"I just play my style, which is responsible, physical and just do the little things," Cracknell said. "I am old enough to know not to play outside my game. There is a reason why I am here and why they signed me to a contract. And why I stayed in the league the whole season for the first time in my career."
Cracknell's versatility is paying dividends for the Stars. With the team missing several centers due to injury, Cracknell is playing in the middle in camp and preseason games. It's a position he played a lot in Vancouver last season.
"I do [feel good playing center]," Cracknell said. "Vancouver asked me if I played center and I said, yes, but I didn't realize how good I would be at it. Playing with [Brandon] Prust and [Derek] Dorsett, we were a pretty good physical line and were plus players."
Cracknell has spent time with the Calgary, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Columbus, Vancouver and Edmonton organizations during his pro career. He saw a great opportunity in Dallas, a team on the rise and one that should be a Stanley Cup contender this season. He also was able to find a quick comfort level with his new team.
"I came two-and-a-half weeks early and skated with Jamie and Jordie [Benn], grew up with them in Victoria [British Columbia]," Cracknell said. "It's kind of nice to have guys like that established here and get a feeling for how the guys are. Coming early, you are not getting thrown into the mix, and you get to develop some friendships and get comfortable with the surroundings."
And with his comfort level rising, Cracknell is looking to make the most of the opportunity that is before him and help fill the void with the Stars missing some key players.
"Opportunities don't come around like this very often, especially when you get older," Cracknell said. "This is the time for me to look like it is the playoffs, play as hard as I can and establish myself. Show that they don't need to go find somebody else, that they've got the right guys in the room here."
Stars GM Jim Nill provided an update on forward Mattias Janmark, who underwent surgery to correct a joint disorder in his knee Friday.
"Everything went as planned. The doctor is very happy," Nill said. "Now, it is just healing, but everything went good. The doctor is very happy with where the situation is."
Janmark's recovery and rehabilitation process is expected to take five to six months.
*Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he expects to go with a young lineup in Sunday's preseason game against Florida in London, Ontario. "With the number of injuries we have we are going to give our younger guys another opportunity," Ruff said.
*Maxime Lagace and Philippe Desrosiers will be the goaltenders for Sunday's game. How playing time will be split between the two goaltenders is still up in the air. "We're open to both playing. It depends on how the play goes for both to play, but I am going to make that decision during the game," Ruff said.
*After Sunday's game in Ontario, the Stars will have three preseason games remaining. Ruff said that captain Jamie Benn will play in two of those three games. The Stars have held Benn out of preseason games so far as a precaution since he had surgery on a core muscle injury in the offseason