Kampfer was named to the Eastern Conference squad for the AHL game on Tuesday despite the fact that he has been up with the big club for over a month, and the 22-year-old first-year pro is doing everything he can to make sure the Bruins don't have any reason to send him back down to Providence, All-Star festivities or not.
Kampfer's latest statement to stick around came with just 1:14 remaining in Thursday's night's clash with Philadelphia at the Garden. The Bruins had already rallied twice in the third to erase one-goal deficits, and Kampfer finally put the Bruins ahead for good with the game-winning goal in an eventual 7-5 victory.
"I was just trying to throw it on net," Kampfer said of his shot in from the right boards. "I knew [Flyers goalie Brian Boucher] was going to go against the post and I was just trying to get it up in the air. I was fortunate enough to beat him far-side high."
Kampfer has gotten a lot of fortunate bounces in his brief tenure in the NHL, but he's made his own luck too with a combination of talent and poise that has impressed his veteran teammates.
"He moves the puck well, his first pass is unbelievable," said forward Mark Recchi, who has 20 years and 21 seasons in the NHL on Kampfer. "He's able to carry the puck out of the zone. He can do it all, and he's got a physical element to his game. He's very composed for a young man and he's a right-handed D-man. It's tough to find those guys."
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara has gotten an even closer look at Kampfer, as he's been paired with the youngster in recent games.
"It's nice to see these young guys come into the league and play the same way they've been playing," Chara said. "Coming here, he's not really changing anything. He's playing the same way. A lot of times you see guys, especially young guys, really playing safe and afraid to make mistakes. But Steven is playing the same way he's been playing since probably anywhere else. He's doing extremely well. He's doing way above his expectations and everybody is really happy and pleased with him."
Kampfer's style may not have changed, but the results certainly have. After putting up 3-13-16 totals in 20 games with Providence, he now has four goals in 17 games with the big club. This after never scoring more than three goals in a season at the University of Michigan and finishing his college career with just seven total goals in four seasons.
"I have more goals this year than I did in my whole college career," Kampfer said. "I guess I'm just a late bloomer. I'm getting lucky. I'm just trying to get pucks on net and I've been fortunate enough to get bounces."
That's not a surprise to Recchi, who's seen just about everything in his NHL career, including the way some players' games transfer better at the pro level.
"You get a little more freedom, you get better players to play with," Recchi said. "Absolutely, I've seen it a lot. [Former Pittsburgh teammate and current Tampa Bay forward] Ryan Malone wasn't a very good college player and he's turned out to be a very good pro. You see it, definitely."
But Kampfer didn't see himself having this kind of success this quickly in the pro game.
"I don't think I ever pictured being here at the NHL this quick," Kampfer said. "It was unfortunate that Stu [Mark Stuart] got hurt, but it created an opportunity and I'm just trying to make the most of it right now. I'm just trying to help this team win."
And he's added a much-needed offensive dimension to the Bruins' defense. Kampfer trails only Chara, who scored his seventh goal of the season in the first period Thursday, for goals by a defenseman. In fact, Kampfer's four goals are as many as the rest of the club's blueliners, save Chara, have combined to score this year.
"I think that's a reason we brought him up," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "When we had him here at training camp, we thought he moved the puck extremely well. I obviously didn't see him carry the puck as much as he does now, but that's probably from gaining some confidence in Providence and coming here and knowing that he's got the green light to carry the puck. He's a good skater and he does a great job. I think he's been a great addition for our hockey club because we really lacked that early on in the year and he's come in and provided us with some of that."
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