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Campbell Wowed By Nomination

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Stepping off the flight home from Carolina, Brian Campbell's life probably couldn't have gotten much better. The Buffalo Sabres were sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings with 31 points in just 17 games and had just departed the RBC Center with the team's 10th consecutive road victory, a 7-4 thrashing of the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

Then Campbell received the shock of a lifetime as his foot hit the tarmac. Once on stable ground, Buffalo's veteran equipment manager Rip Simonick broke the news to the 27-year-old defenseman that his name would be appearing on the NHL's All-Star Ballot on Wednesday.

"It's weird," said Campbell when asked about the nomination. "It's a nice feeling and a nice honor, but I'm kind of like, 'wow.'"

"I just don't see myself in that category."

Campbell shouldn't have been too surprised by the nod, as he has excelled in both the offensive and defensive zones.

Only one of four Buffalo defensemen who has appeared in every game for the Sabres this season, Campbell's 12 assists are tied for league lead among defensemen with Bryan McCabe of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chris Pronger of the Anaheim Ducks and Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens.

While Campbell has always been labeled an offensive defenseman, his play in the defensive zone is where he has shown the most improvement. The Strathroy, Ontario native ranks second among blueliners with a plus-11 rating, while four-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings leads the league with a plus-17.

Campbell's current plus/minus rating is a 25-point improvement from 2005-06 when he finished a minus-14.

"The challenge for Brian after the year was over was that we wanted to make him a plus defenseman," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "It was the one area that we told him we wanted him to be better at and be more responsible. You look at those numbers now coupled with his offensive numbers, and he's right behind some of the elite defensemen in the league."

Much like Campbell, Ruff hadn't seen the All-Star ballot as of Tuesday morning. His reaction when hearing of Buffalo's six nominations - Campbell, Maxim Afinogenov, Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Ryan Miller and Henrik Tallinder - mirrored that of his defenseman.

"That's awesome," said Ruff, who was obviously proud of his players. "I'm glad [Campbell's] on it. Brian has played just tremendously for us."

"It was very well deserved."
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