Penguins Notebook: Campbell has souped up Panthers' offense
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SUNRISE, Fla. -- Brian Campbell could have stayed in Chicago.
All he had to do was invoke his no-trade clause, and he still would be part of the Blackhawks, a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Instead, Campbell decided he would join general manager Dale Tallon, who had signed him as a free agent in Chicago a few years earlier, in Florida.
He has not had any reason to second-guess himself, let alone regret his decision.
Campbell entered the Panthers' game against the Penguins Saturday night at the BankAtlantic Center tied for second in scoring among NHL defensemen with a goal and 16 assists in 18 games.
"You always guess [about whether you have done the right thing] a few times, but, once I got here and figured it all out ... now I know it's the best thing for me," Campbell said Saturday.
"Just like when I signed in Chicago. I still feel it was the best move I made. And coming here now, I know it's the best move. I'm really happy here."
Whether he is as happy as the Panthers are to have him is hard to say.
"He's been nothing but a quality player and has shown great character off the ice as well," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "He's taken a strong leadership role with a lot of our young defensemen."
While intangibles like leadership are fine, Campbell's ability to carry the puck has very tangible benefits. He not only can get it out of the defensive end, but forces opponents to back off more quickly than they did when Florida did not have a defenseman with Campbell's skills.
"Anytime the puck is yours -- when the puck is on your stick, and you're able to make plays instead of just banging it in -- that makes life a lot easier for your team," Dineen said. "That's been a strength of ours, and Brian has been a guy who's really led us in that part."
The Penguins likely saw more clouds and rain than sunshine on the swing through Florida that began Wednesday when they arrived in Tampa.
Team officials, however, said the weather did not force the cancellation of any events associated with the annual "dads' trip," on which players are accompanied by their fathers. Still, the traveling party had hoped for better weather.
"Disappointed," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "We had just one afternoon where we could go out and enjoy the pool, the sun."
That was Friday, but, even then, it was a mostly cloudy, breezy and occasionally rainy day in south Florida.
"We still got in the pool," Fleury said, laughing. "Where else are you going to go? [Jordan Staal] got in the ocean, too, for a little bit."
The Penguins have proven over the past season-plus that they can absorb injuries -- lots of them and to key players -- without having it reflected in their record.
Florida has been one of the surprise teams in the NHL through the first quarter of the season, but the Panthers have lost a couple reliable veterans such as Scottie Upshall, Matt Bradley and Mikael Samuelsson and have to show that replacements such as Michal Repik and Evgenii Dadonov are capable fill-ins.
"That's one of the joys of coaching in the American League, when you get to tell players [they're] getting called up," Dineen said. "That's what life's all about, opportunity. And, when it presents itself, it's what you do with it."
Richard Park returned to the lineup after sitting out the 4-1 loss in Tampa Thursday. Winger Steve MacIntyre was a healthy scratch. ... The Penguins had 13 players show up for an optional game-day skate that had been expected to draw only injured players and those scheduled to be scratched against the Panthers.
First Published November 20, 2011 12:00 am