BOSTON -- The lanky, athletic figure came around the corner just seconds after you heard the final clanks of the bottom of his crutches hitting the waxed floor.
Once Gregory Campbell, with his surgically repaired right leg elevated and half protected by a plastic brace, made it to the front of the TD Garden elevators Monday morning, those waiting to go up just a couple floors were reminded what real toughness is.
Most then decided to walk up the steps while the Boston Bruins center waited. After all, everyone looks like a wimp when standing next to the guy famous for playing more than 50 seconds of a penalty kill with a broken leg.
Campbell has been out of the lineup with a broken right fibula ever since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Last Monday he underwent surgery for the damage Evgeni Malkin's slap shot caused in that dramatic Bruins win.
As they prepared for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks with the series tied 1-1, the Bruins were visited by Campbell for the first time since his surgery.
"You know, with him not being able to be around us on the road, we definitely are going to enjoy his presence and just his comments on certain parts of the game," longtime linemate Daniel Paille said. "I think we're all happy to see him again."
Campbell's usual right wing Shawn Thornton said: "He's been my centerman for three years and I miss the guy, obviously. He's a big part of this team. ... He's been unbelievable for me the last three years."
In a quick chat by the elevators, Campbell smiled while saying he feels all right. Monday was his first day out of the house since his surgery, and he was eager to see his teammates.
Coach Claude Julien is looking forward to having Campbell around more.
"It's nice to see him," Julien said. "There's no doubt. Obviously he can't play. We miss him. He's a good player for us. But just to be around our team, it's nice to have him back. Like I said yesterday, he's part of our family. That's how we look at things in that dressing room. If he could have, he would have been in Chicago. It was too early after surgery. From here on in, he's good to go, going to be with us the whole way."
The Bruins obviously won't need much inspiration when they hit the ice for their first home Final game since 2011. The series with the Blackhawks has been as close as possible, with both teams earning an overtime victory. However, the Bruins learned in that series two years ago with the Vancouver Canucks how much of an emotional lift the return of an injured teammate can provide, as forward Nathan Horton dropped into the locker room after Game 4. He had been knocked out of the lineup with a concussion caused by an open-ice hit from Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome in Game 3.
"I think the same thing a couple years ago happened to [Horton], and every time that someone goes down you always want to play for that player," Paille said. "Right now [Campbell], we know he's done everything he did to help us get to where we're at. And we always want to make sure that it wasn't for nothing. So you want to leave it out there and make sure that you give it everything."
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