As the Chicago Blackhawks prepare to take on the New York Rangers Monday at Madison Square Garden, they will do so with the help of a familiar face.
After suffering a knee sprain in a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 2, defenseman Brian Campbell is expected to make his regular-season debut in Monday's Original 6 matchup (7 p.m. ET), which will be telecast across North America by NHL Network.
"It's been pretty boring the last month," Campbell said after taking the ice for the team's morning skate. "I'm ready to go tonight and help out and get a feel for it again."
Campbell knew he was ready after undergoing a rigorous skate Saturday in Minnesota while his team prepared for a game against the Wild. His successful navigation of Monday's morning skate at the Garden only reinforced that notion.
"It feels pretty good," Campbell said. "Obviously, you're going to have pain for a little while longer. But I felt comfortable with it and I had a really good skate in Minnesota there. That was a tough skate they put me through. After that, it felt pretty good. It responded well."
According to early reports, Campbell will be reunited with Nicklas Hjalmarsson, a pairing that paid big dividends for the Hawks last season in their march to the Stanley Cup.
Hjalmarsson has struggled this season, going pointless with a minus-8 rating in 11 games.
Campbell's return also should help ease the workload on the top defense pairing of Duncan Keith
and Brent Seabrook
. Keith leads the League in average ice time per game at 29:09, while Seabrook is sixth at 25:51. Last season, Campbell was third on the team at 23:12 per game.
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews
certainly is looking forward to seeing the mobile, offensive defenseman join a lineup that's been riddled by injuries through the first month of the season.
"It'll be great," Toews said. “I think we did a great job playing without some of our best players. That’s part of the game. It’s always nice when you get them back in -- an added boost."
Campbell is happy to serve as a reinforcement for the Hawks, who labored through a busy October by going 7-5-1.
"We've had some inconsistencies," Campbell said. "I thought the last game we played (Saturday's 3-1 win against Minnesota) was probably our best game of the season, so that was great to see. I think we're starting to play the style we're accustomed to -- holding teams to a few shots and scoring chances, not cheating. At times we did cheat a bit in the first month. I think we're slowly coming around."
Perhaps now with Campbell back in the mix, the process of coming around will be further accelerated.
I think he certainly can help our team," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "With his puck (skills) and his speed and his quickness. He can help with the pace of our game, our cycling game as well. A lot of quality minutes there."
Author: Sergei J. Feldman | NHL.com Staff Writer