SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Coaches love to say that injuries and setbacks for one player is an opportunity for another. And as the struggling Arizona Coyotes continue to see their roster depleted by injuries and other transactions, opportunities abound.
Enter defenseman Andrew Campbell, who spent six seasons in the Los Angeles Kings organization before moving to the Coyotes last summer. He celebrated his 27th birthday this week and did it wearing an NHL uniform, the culmination of a long climb through the minors. He will be paired with Connor Murphy again Saturday when the Coyotes play the Detroit Red Wings.
After a strong season with the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League, Campbell earned a call-up to Arizona and is providing some strong penalty killing and much-needed grit around the Coyotes net, two areas they've lacked all season. Campbell earned his first NHL assist Tuesday in a 4-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he has helped bolster a penalty-kill unit that has struggled all season.
"Campbell's a good story," Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. "There are a lot of players around the League like that, guys who haven't gotten the opportunity. We signed him this summer as a depth defenseman, a guy we knew was a good minor-league player but with the change in organizations perhaps have some upside.
"He was [Portland's] top defenseman, and in our situation what we really needed is a left-handed, defending defenseman who plays hard around the front of the net. He's put the work in and when he's had the opportunity, he's seized it."
Ranked last or near-last in penalty killing all season, the Coyotes have allowed three power-play goals in the last 32 times shorthanded, and Campbell has been a big part of that surge. It's also a reason the Coyotes are 3-1-2 in the past six games after a seven-game losing streak (0-5-2).
The Arizona penalty kill will get a real test Saturday. The Red Wings have the top-ranked power play in the NHL (25.8 percent) and have 47 power-play goals this season, the latest from Justin Abdelkader in a 3-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. Detroit has scored a power-play goal in 11 of its past 17 games, going 13-4-0 in that span.
The Coyotes have a good group of puck-moving defensemen but no one with the size to do the dirty work players like Derek Morris, Adrian Aucoin, Rostislav Klesla and Michal Rozsival have handled in the past. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Campbell has caught attention for clearing the crease and playing the tougher style Tippett has craved.
"I don't take any single day for granted," Campbell said. "Any day I spend up here I know it could potentially be my last, so I take every day as I'm lucky and thankful to be here, and I just try to get better on and off the ice."
His coach has noticed that effort and work ethic.
"He is boxing out and being strong in front of the net," Tippett said. "He's winning battles and that's something we've missed dearly on our team. When we were in Montreal (a 3-2 win Feb. 1), one skater kept buzzing around and Campbell stayed with him, whacking him and keeping from the net," Tippett said. "After a while the guys gave up; that's what we lacked around the net."
Here are the projected lineups:
Gustav Nyquist - Henrik Zetterberg - Justin Abdelkader
Darren Helm - Pavel Datsyuk - Tomas Tatar
Stephen Weiss - Riley Sheahan - Luke Glendening
Drew Miller - Joakim Andersson - Tomas Jurco
Jonathan Ericsson - Niklas Kronwall
Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser
Brendan Smith - Alexey Marchenko
Scratched: Daniel Cleary, Jakub Kindl, Xavier Ouellet
Injured: Johan Franzen (head), Jimmy Howard (groin)
Tobias Rieder - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Martin Erat - Alexandre Bolduc - Sam Gagner
Lauri Korpikoski - Kyle Chipchura - David Moss
Lucas Lessio - Brendan Shinnimin - B.J. Crombeen
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle - Michael Stone
Andrew Campbell - Connor Murphy
Scratched: Chris Summers, Brandon McMillan
Injured: Martin Hanzal (upper body), Joe Vitale (upper body)
Status report: Hanzal is more than a week away from returning from his injury. He has played in 37 of 53 games. … Vitale skated hard Friday but won't play against Detroit and is questionable for a road trip that starts Monday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Who's hot: Yandle has seven points, all assists, in the past six games and 11 assists in the past 10 games. ... Smith made 39 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss against the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday and has stopped 68 of 70 shots in the past two games. … Mrazek earned his third career shutout Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche.