BOSTON — The last time Gregory Campbell was seen on TD Garden ice, he was hobbling off, barely making it to the bench. He had broken his leg, of course, after blocking a shot in the Eastern Conference finals, ending his season.
On Thursday night, Campbell was back on the Garden ice quite literally taking the next step in his recovery from that broken leg he suffered blocking an Evgeni Malkin shot in Game 3 of that series.
Recoveries and rehabs are all about milestones, and Thursday’s return to game action was just that for Campbell. He’s progressed well enough in his rehab to get back to playing in games, and that alone was enough to make him happy.
“I felt pretty good,” Campbell said after the game. “My body felt good. My expectations were … I had no expectations. I just wanted to get the first period over with, feel the pace of the game. I’m very grateful to be back on the ice and playing. For me, it was a long couple of months so it was an exciting time. Would have liked to be on the winning side. There are some things to build on my side and with the team.”
Bruins fans were certainly happy to see him back. Campbell jumped over the boards during the team’s first line change of the game, and he was greeted with warm applause from the TD Garden crowd. When Campbell touched the puck at center ice, that ovation got even louder. That’s a gesture that wasn’t lost on the Boston forward.
“I was very appreciative of all the support,” Campbell said. “These fans are passionate people and the appreciate hockey. I like to play hard for the fans, the city and organization. It’s been a long couple of months for me to get back on the ice, so it was a nice gesture.”
Campbell, who said he felt no limitations, ended up logging 12:17 of ice time on 17 shifts. He was back on the Boston penalty kill where he saw 3:49 of action. He was able to get two shots on net and won six of 11 faceoffs he took.
Those are important stats, not necessarily because of what they actually are, but more because of what they represent. They’re tangible. They’re numbers that show he played in a hockey game Thursday night. That, mixed with the fact that he feels good and continues to feel better should indicate the story is reaching its end. At least that’s what Campbell seems to hope.
“It’s time to turn the page,” he said. “Last season is over, the injury is over and for me, I have to move on and look to being a player that’s going to help this year’s team. As an athlete, you have to have short-term memory and that’s what I’m trying to do. I try to answer the questions and I know there’s some interest, but for me, the most important thing is being ready to play this season. Things move on and there’s 29 teams other than us that are looking for a Stanley Cup. That’s our goal and my goal moving forward.”