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Campbell's Versatility Comes to Forefront

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - Nothing flashy - just hard work and heart.

When Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli acquired Gregory Campbell from the Florida Panthers in the summer of 2010, the words he spoke about the gritty forward's game could be easily recycled today.

"He’s a very versatile player and if you look closely at his stats other than his goals and assists, he blocks a lot of shots, takes a lot of faceoffs," said Chiarelli. "He actually locks up some good minutes."

Read More: Gregory Campbell, From Barn to B's

"With Gregory, it’s versatility, it’s grit, and he’s another guy that can play up and down the lineup."

When he was re-signed on June 13, 2012, and locked up for three more years, Chiarelli said, "Gregory epitomizes the Bruins' style of play, and when when we brought him here the year before last, he did great service for us in the fourth line. But he's also shown that he can play up and he's a strong player."

So when injuries to the Bruins' centers left, first Chris Kelly out of the lineup, and then Patrice Bergeron, Coach Julien relied on his lone left-handed centerman in the lineup to do just that - play up and down the lines.

Whether at different points during a game, or most recently in the Bruins' 6-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night, centering Jaromir Jagr and Brad Marchand, Campbell is simply relied upon to be consistently versatile in all situations.

Campbell logged 15:29 in ice time Monday night, registering two shots and throwing a hit, but it didn't mark his highest minutes of the season, as the B's were finally able to sustain momentum from line to line, spread out the minutes, and not have to rely on one or two lines to carry the load.

"We’ve always felt that way about him, he’s a very versatile player that you can move up and down," said Coach Julien, following the B's win over Carolina, when asked if Campbell provides more versatility than he gets credit for.

"His style is not fancy, it’s about straightforward, it’s about hard work, it’s about getting pucks to the net and getting his nose dirty in all the areas."

Even throughout the start of his NHL career with the Florida Panthers organization, from 2005-10, Campbell played a bottom-six role, playing alongside Radek Dvorak and Dominic Moore on the Cats' "third line" for a period of time, before being traded to the Bruins and anchoring the "fourth line" - though the B's energy line could hardly be considered a prototypical NHL fourth line.

Playing in a top-six forward role like on Monday night is something that - although he's capable of the minutes - hasn't come too often in his career, but Coach knew he could rely upon Campbell in that position.

As Coach has had to tinker with the lines the past week with new additions and injuries, seeing a "fourth line," Merlot-powered center like Campbell on the "second line" may cause some to pause. But those who know him and his style of play, would assess that he never gives up on pucks, forechecks hard and is considerably strong along the boards, allowing for offensively gifted wingers like Marchand and Jagr the space to work.

"He was a decent centerman for those guys who like to move the puck around. He made room for those guys and he opened up some passing lanes," said Coach Julien.

Campbell's left winger for the night, Marchand, who scored twice in the win over Carolina off rebounds, after Jagr and Campbell's puck control helped set up the goals, spoke about the ease playing with the center.

"Yeah, he’s a very easy guy to play with. He's very a straight-forward kind of guy and he’s very, very strong on the puck down low once he gets it," said Marchand.

"You can’t take it from him and you saw on the first goal we got there, he dug it out and took it to the net and he’s a great player. He doesn’t make many mistakes and he can really – he can click with any guy he plays with."

Coach Julien often talks about the B's needing to play a "heavy game" and besides a turned-on Milan Lucic or Nathan Horton, there's probably no Bruin that better personifies that physical, hard-checking brand of hockey better than Gregory Campbell.

Once a Merlot liner himself - velvet burgundy jacket and all - Marchand was gladly sending praise his former linemate's way.

"Soupy seems to be able to play anywhere they put him and I’ve always really liked playing with him," said the winger. "He’s always going to support you and be there to dig out pucks in battles and he’s great to play with. You saw tonight, he goes to the net very hard; he protects the puck very, very well down low."

"Those guys are pretty unique, they’re gifted offensively and they make space for you," said Campbell on his wingers for the time being. "They do some really creative things on the ice and it’s more about reading off them, giving them space and letting them do what they do."

But for Campbell, and any other B's currently playing in different roles, with the shuffled lines, it's about stepping up, while sticking to their own games.

"I can’t start being somebody that I’m not. That’s not going to complement them very well," said Campbell, the professional hard worker, whose dedication was bred many years ago, toiling in his parents' Tillsonburg Youngblood-esque barn that saw him do chin-ups on wooden beams and suffer through hill sprints in hopes of one day reaching the NHL, let alone someday centering Jaromir Jagr, if only for a game.

"Nothing’s set in stone. We have some injuries right now and it’s about players sometimes expanding their role but also staying within their strengths and doing the things that have gotten us here to the level that we’re at," said Campbell.

"So I realize that there’s things that I do well and there’s things that other players are more gifted at and so playing with two extremely gifted, smart, intelligent players it’s about me complementing them, as I said, and not trying to stray from what I’m good at and bring energy to our play."

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