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Campbell once again rewarding Tallon's faith

by Alain Poupart
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Brian Campbell once again has rewarded Dale Tallon's faith in him.

As it happened with Chicago after Tallon signed him to a controversial free-agent contract, Campbell earned a spot in the NHL All-Star Game in his first season with the Florida Panthers after being acquired by Tallon in another hotly-debated move.

"Dale has been great to me and he's shown a lot of confidence in me," Campbell said. "For me, it translates over into my play where I should have a lot of confidence in my game and myself."

Campbell was the lone Florida player selected to the 2012 All-Star Game despite the team sitting atop the Southeast Division standings.

The Panthers haven't had more than one All-Star since 2000 when Pavel Bure, Viktor Kozlov and Ray Whitney all were selected.

The Panthers had several other worthy candidates this year, such as Campbell's defense partner Jason Garrison, who leads all NHL defensemen with 11 goals, and all three players on the top line -- Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann.


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"Great for Soupy, he's earned it," Tallon said. "He's had a great career and he's playing really well for us. I think that's fantastic. Obviously, Flash and Weisser and Steeger are deserving as well and Garry -- Jason's been terrific. We had a lot of candidates. It's been fun, and moving forward we're going to have a lot of candidates. That's what it's all about."

For Campbell, this will be his fourth All-Star Game appearance. His first two came with Buffalo in 2007 and 2008 before he was dealt to San Jose at the trade deadline when he was an impending free agent.

Tallon then signed Campbell to an eight-year, $56 million contract that was criticized in many circles. But Campbell earned an All-Star Game invitation in his first year with the Hawks and in his second season -- when there was no All-Star Game because of the Winter Olympics -- he helped Chicago win its first Stanley Cup title since 1961.

Tallon brought Campbell down to Florida this summer as the centerpiece of his rebuilding project, acquiring him for underachieving former first-round pick Rostislav Olesz. While Olesz is playing in the minors after clearing waivers, Campbell is second in the NHL in scoring among defensemen with 33 points.

"I know what he brings to the table every night and I know how much he cares and how much he wants to play," Tallon said. "We brought him into Chicago to win and they won, and we're going to do the same thing here. And he wants to win, as well, and wants to play a lot, and it's fun to watch."

Before making his NHL debut in the 1999-2000 season, Campbell played in the OHL for Ottawa, so this year's All-Star Game will be a homecoming of sorts.

The game also will be played only 6 1/2 hours away from his hometown of Strathroy, Ontario, and he expects his parents to make the drive for the game.

"I'm excited to go," Campbell said. "I felt like I had a fairly good first half and can't wait to represent the Panthers.

"The first one was really special. This one probably is the best for myself. I feel like I've put a lot of work in. I feel like I've been written off a little bit sometimes by some people. This one probably means the most to me out of all of them. I love where I'm playing right now, I love the situation. It's very rewarding with all the work that I've put into it to be able to go."

Campbell plans to bring back souvenirs from the weekend, as he did in his previous three All-Star trips.

They were all enjoyable experiences, except for one scary moment involving the skills competition.

"I remember the first year I got there I was in hardest shot and I went right to one of the coaches and I said, 'I am not doing hardest shot, I'll tell you that right now. I will not embarrass myself.'" Campbell recalled with a laugh. "Brian Rafalski was doing fastest skater and we switched, so I didn't have to embarrass myself. So I did fastest skater that year. As long as I don't do hardest shot, I'll do anything else. Just please not that one."
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