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Kamensky will get opportunity to prove himself. // The Dallas Morning News
By MIKE HEIKA
Whether it is chiming, buzzing or just plain old knocking, there's quite a ruckus around Valeri Kamensky's locker these days.
Opportunity, you see, has stopped by for a long chat.
Kamensky joined the Stars last summer as a free agent after two frustrating seasons with the New York Rangers. At age 35, he believed the Stars were the right fit for him. However, he has been a healthy scratch 11 times this season and has yet to score a goal in his 17 games played. He has four assists and is averaging 10:16 of ice time a game.
That's why the next three weeks could be the most important of the season for Kamensky. Brenden Morrow is nursing a sprained right knee and is expected to be out for three to four weeks. That leaves the first-line left wing spot wide open for Kamensky, giving him a chance finally to show himself, the coaches and his teammates what he can do with extended minutes on a highly skilled line.
"This is a big chance for me," he said in preparation of Friday's 7:30 p.m. game against Edmonton at American Airlines Center. "I've waited for my chance, and now that I have it, I need to score a couple of goals."
Unfair as it might seem on a Stars team that stresses "making the right play," Kamensky will be judged on production. He is a fluid skater raised in the Russian system who has scored 26 or more goals four times. Even in a slump last season with the Rangers, he had 14 goals and 20 assists in 65 games.
So the grading of Valeri Kamensky will be out there for everyone to see - goals, assists and points.
"At the end of the day, is he productive? That's what we're looking at," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said.
How Kamensky handles that pressure is part of the test.
"It's a pressure position to be in for anybody," linemate Mike Modano said. "Anybody that gets put in that slot, there's a lot of responsibility put on him."
Modano has been on fire lately with four goals and four assists in the last five games, and Kamensky needs to accentuate that, or, at the very least, not slow it down. Kamensky has shown an ability to play off of big centers in the past, working with Peter Forsberg in Quebec and Colorado. Since coming to Dallas, he has also shown a tendency to work hard at practice, to fit into the locker room and to never complain when he's scratched.
"Val is a consummate professional," Hitchcock said. "He's had a couple of tough years, and he's trying to help his own cause. He's not pushing it anywhere else."
That said, he has to produce, and soon.
"I like it here. I like the team, I like the organization, I like the guys, I like everything," Kamensky said. "I want to succeed here."
His chance at success is laid out before him. Opportunity is knocking
for Valeri Kamensky. He has a few weeks to open the door.