BostonBruins.com - If we want to label a "bright spot" in the 8-2 loss to Detroit in the B's third preseason game on Thursday night at TD Garden, it was the return of Gregory Campbell, playing in his first game since breaking his right leg on June 5 during the Eastern Conference Final.
Campbell, who hardly feels discomfort near his right ankle now, with screws and a plate inserted during the surgery, and a new pair of skates to ease the pain, has said the mental aspect is now the hardest to overcome.
That, the next step was just moving forward and playing. He got that opportunity Thursday night and, as expected, when he hit the ice for his first shift of the game, the 16,000-plus on hand gave him a cheer of acknowledgment.
"Of course, I'm extremely appreciative of the support from the fans," Campbell said following the game, of the reaction.
"I want to play hard for them and for the city and the organization and their a passionate group, they know their hockey, so it was very nice to hear that."
Captain Zdeno Chara had been anxious for his teammate's return as well.
“Obviously a tough end of the playoffs for him - we all missed him, he’s such a great teammate," Zee told me before the game. "He recovered so well and he worked so hard to be back so he wouldn’t have to miss any games or time from the beginning of the season, and he did a tremendous job to be able to be in great shape. He’s such an important part for our team; it’s hard to replace guys like that.”
Campbell logged 12:17 in ice time in his first game back, including 3:49 on the penalty kill. He registered two shots on goal in the outing, was credited with a takeaway and won 55-percent of his draws.
"He’s fine. I think he skated well [Thursday night]," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "It’s his first game back and obviously get the cob webs out of the way and, unfortunately, it wasn’t the best outing for our team to come back but he was fine, he felt good, and I thought he skated well."
"Well, you like to be on the winning side of things, of course," said Campbell. "But, you know, as far as my body goes, I felt pretty good. I was far from perfect but I think there's a foundation there to build on and I didn't necessarily feel out of place."
"It's been a long couple of months, so just very grateful to be back out on the ice."
And now, Campbell is looking forward to moving on into the season, and putting the injury behind him - even if he is appreciative of all the support.
"Definitely well-deserving with what he was doing, but you know him," Paille told me, of his teammate and good friend. "He just wants to kind of leave it be and play the game, so hopefully [the attention] doesn't go too long for him so he can just focus on playing."