There is simply no replacing Gregory Campbell. The Bruins’ fourth-line center proved that in a big way on Wednesday night in Game 3. Despite not being one of the team’s elite offensive talents, there’s no denying Campbell is an integral part of this team’s fabric.
The B’s forward provided what will surely be a lasting image in the team’s longstanding history as he limped around the ice to finish a penalty kill shift after blocking an Evgeni Malkin slap shot. The sight of Campbell hobbling around the ice doing all he could to try and just do something gave the Bruins and TD Garden an emotional boost.
It did come at a price however. The Bruins confirmed what everyone feared Thursday when they announced Campbell will miss the rest of the playoffs with a broken right fibula. After wincing at the thought of playing hockey on a broken fibula, it’s time to look at what the Bruins will miss in Campbell’s absence and how they must go about filling that absence.
First of all, there is absolutely no way the Bruins are able to just replace Campbell and move on. He’s a glue guy who performs a variety of roles. He helps provide energy on the fourth line. He’s a solid faceoff man. He kills penalties. He’ll fight if he has to. Above all, he’s a good teammate, a fact that the rest of the club swears by.
“Obviously it was a pretty serious injury, so that’s just the kind of player he is, and it doesn’t surprise me,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the Bruins’ 2-1 double overtime win Wednesday. “It doesn’t surprise his teammates, but certainly it shows the character of that player, and that’s why we appreciate having him on our team.”
“That’s the way he is,” Patrice Bergeron added. “He sacrifices the body always for the team, for the better of the team. Obviously we tried to rally behind that and do it for him because he’s a big part of our team on and off the ice.”
Making matters worse for the Bruins is that Campbell had been playing some very good hockey up until his season ended. After registering just four goals and nine assists in 48 regular-season games this season, Campbell had already posted 3-4-7 totals through 15 playoff games. He was averaging about 12 minutes per night in the playoffs, with more than 2 minutes of that coming on the penalty kill. It’s on the PK — the same unit that has blanked the Penguins on 11 chances in this series — that Campbell may be missed most.
Now Julien has that decision to make in regards to who he inserts into his lineup. One option would be Kaspars Daugavins. Although he hasn’t played since Game 1 of the Toronto series, Daugavins would offer the club some versatility, although there would likely be more than one change with the insertion of Daugavins into the lineup. If the Bruins were to go with Daugavins, it might make most sense to move Rich Peverley down to center the fourth line between Daugavins and Shawn Thornton. You could then move Daniel Paille up to the left wing on the third line alongside Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin, giving the Bruins a ton of speed on the wings there.
Another option may be to let Jordan Caron rejoin the lineup. Caron scored a goal and added two assists with the Bruins in 17 games this season, and he also has limited playoff experience after appearing in two postseason games last year. He may also be fresher than Daugavins having played more recently. Caron played in all 12 Providence Bruins playoff games, scoring two goals and adding seven assists.
The darkhorse candidate to replace Campbell is Carl Soderberg. However, the Swedish forward has just six games of NHL experience, and it might be a little too risky to insert him into the lineup just one win from the Stanley Cup Final.
Julien acknowledged Thursday that he has options and that he’ll reassess everything before making a decision before Friday’s Game 4. Whatever the decision he settles upon, however, there’s little doubting it won’t be able to fill the void left by Campbell’s injury.