CHICAGO – Brian Campbell missed the final month of last season and half of the Chicago Blackhawks' first playoff series with a broken clavicle. Now he’ll miss the start of this season with an injured knee.
The Hawks said on Saturday morning that Campbell, who left Friday night's preseason game against Pittsburgh early in the second period, will miss 4-5 weeks with a sprained knee. It's certainly a big blow to a team trying to defend its Stanley Cup championship after an offseason that saw nearly half the roster overturned because of salary-cap issues.
Now, a key member of a talented top-four defense group will be gone for an extended stretch. It's not good, but Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said it could be a lot worse. Campbell didn't tear his anterior cruciate ligament, which would have required knee surgery that likely would have ended his season.
"If you get the ACL in there, then all of a sudden it's a different kind of damage," Quenneville said. "It's part of the business. You look around the league and there's a lot of guys injured on different teams. That's all part of it. You're going to have it at every stretch of the season. There's no good timing for injuries."
If any team knows that already, it's the Hawks – who played large stretches of last season without center Dave Bolland
(back), forward Marian Hossa
(knee) and Campbell (shoulder).
"Last year, we started the season without Hossa and Bolland was hurt," Quenneville said. "Our depth will always get tested and challenged. Hopefully we get guys who can step in and provide quality play. This is a good test for us right off the start."
It's also an extended tryout for 19-year old rookie defenseman Nick Leddy
, who was already pushing hard for a roster spot before Campbell's injury. Now, it's almost a foregone conclusion. If Leddy indeed makes the roster, it will probably mean an extended opportunity to impress Hawks' brass even more than he's already done in his first professional training camp.
Quenneville was asked on Saturday if he'd slide Leddy into the second defense pairing alongside Niklas Hjalmarsson
for Sunday night's preseason finale at home against St. Louis, and he didn't rule it out.
"We'll see," Quenneville said. "Tomorrow we might try that pair together as a unit and see how they handle it, but that's an option."
Leddy is a slick skating, puck-moving defenseman like Campbell and could potentially be a good fit with Hjalmarsson – who's also young and just signed a lucrative three-year contract extension this summer. He's still quite inexperienced, though, after leaving the University of Minnesota after his freshman year to start his professional career.
Leddy's only professional experience thus far consists of training camp and exhibition games, plus this summer's prospect development camp and a prospects tournament in London, Ontario.
"It's a big jump from where he was last season," Quenneville said. "With young guys, you still have to keep an eye on him, particularly as a defenseman. He's absorbed a lot as he's gone through this camp, and at this stage of his career that's a good sign -- that he's receptive and applies it correctly."
Leddy, while disappointed for Campbell, is understandably excited at the chance he likely has to stick around with the Hawks for several weeks longer.
"Who wouldn't want to stay here?" he said. "Playing here's a blast and, you know, (I'm) learning little things from some of the guys. We'll see how it goes. It's still a tryout, so I'll keep worrying about playing my game. Nobody has told me anything."
Author: Brian Hedger | NHL.com Correspondent