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Campbell skating, nearing return to Hawks' lineup

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- He's not ready for game action just yet, but Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell is inching closer to returning from a sprained knee.
Campbell, who on Friday will have missed exactly four weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament, skated with the Hawks on Wednesday for the first time since the injury happened on Oct. 1 at the United Center in a preseason game against Pittsburgh.
Prior to Wednesday's workout, Campbell had skated by himself several times and looked good. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville floated the possibility of getting him back this weekend in New York, but Campbell isn't quite as optimistic.
"I don't know about that," he said. "Maybe get into shape here (first). I feel good in recovery, but I'm not into game shape yet. This was my first day with the guys. It was a good challenge and I'm feeling better every day. I'd like to get back as soon as possible, but I'm not sure when that date is yet."
One thing he is sure about is the knee brace that he'll wear for the rest of the season. Campbell was initially concerned the brace might limit the mobility and speed that make him a highly-regarded puck-moving and possessing defenseman.
Since wearing the brace for workouts, Campbell is pleased with the results.
"I don't mind it at all," he said. "It's been pretty good. I asked lots of questions to the other guys who have them, but after the first couple days, when you get the straps tightened to where you want it, it felt pretty good."
Better than sitting out for 10 games and counting, watching teammates like Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith log extra ice time to make up for him not being available. Seabrook is averaging 26:02 a game, while Keith is at 29:44 -- high even for him.
"When you play that much, you've got to conserve your energy a little bit," said Keith, who played 115 games combined last season between the regular season, Olympics and playoffs. "You just can't play with as much energy as you're used to, shift to shift. (Campbell) plays a lot, too, and I think (his return) is going to be good for me that way, to get my minutes down a little bit and get back to how I do things."
Campbell's return should also allow the Hawks as a team get back to doing things they did it a year ago, when they were the League's best team in shots allowed. A big reason for that was a strong puck possession game that's currently struggling minus Campbell. The Hawks are currently 20th in the League in shots allowed (34.1 per game), which doesn't sit well with Quenneville.
"Whether it's alleviating zone time or getting cleaner exits out of our zone, is probably one (area) you notice (Campbell)," Quenneville said. "He's a threat off the rush and a threat off the offensive point -- but the puck possession game is probably one area that he enhances."
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