A year ago Bruins defenseman Steven Kampfer was working out off the ice as though he had a game to play, but he didn’t.
As a member of the New York Rangers, Kampfer was headed to a playoff-less spring. The Dustin Byfuglien one-timer that broke Kampfer’s hand in January 2018 also ended his season.
Kampfer got scant playing time this season with the Bruins after he was acquired from the Rangers in the Adam McQuaid trade in training camp (35 regular-season games, one playoff game against Toronto in the first round), but at this crucial time of the season Kampfer’s is being asked to step into the lineup.
The 30-year-old will replace the suspended McAvoy in the Bruins’ lineup for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday against Carolina at TD Garden. Kampfer will most likely play on a pairing with Matt Grzelcyk.
"I think a lot of it’s the mental preparation," Kampfer said. "Going into it, they’re a fast team, they’re going to come hard and you have to be ready for it. When it’s all said and done just be ready to go and get a hit your first shift, move your feet, make a play. It’s pretty much all you’re looking for.”
After breaking his hand last season, Kampfer didn’t start working out until mid-May. By early June he was swinging a golf club and catching baseballs to see how his hand would respond. He took a month off in July, when he got married, and then got back at it in August.
Kampfer’s always been a semi-regular in the NHL, often asked to go in and out of the lineup. Last year’s experience with his injury, though, may have helped him be prepared for the challenges of this season.
“I think a lot of it is you kind of, I hate to say it, but when you’re hurt you kind of get a little bit more mentally strong because you’re pushing yourself back into trying to rehab and making sure that every workout counts. So I think that that kind of helped in the aspect of when you weren’t playing you’ve got to make sure all those extra workouts you’re going harder and you’re pushing yourself that when the time comes you’re ready to go back in and you’re not afraid,” he said.
Kampfer’s also no stranger to season-ending injuries. When he was with the Bruins the first time around he tore up his knee as a rookie near the end of the 2010-11 season. He was unavailable to Boston during the playoff run, but when the Bruins clinched the Stanley Cup championship in Vancouver he pulled on a sweater and went out on the ice to raise the Cup – albeit in a limited state.
“I had a brace on and I was taped up to the point where I couldn’t even bend my knee because at that point I still had four months of rehab left before I was even ready to go,” he recalled.
The picture of Kampfer and the Cup hangs at home and he looks back at that moment fondly. The chance to do it again is eight Boston wins away, and he’d get a chance to celebrate as a contributor rather than an observer.
“I was talking to my wife about it, she was like ‘how was it eight years ago when you won?’ I was like ‘I was a kid.’ I mean it was amazing, it was fun to be around, but it’d be better now,” Kampfer said.
Filling in for McAvoy, Kampfer has a chance to help the Bruins get their NHL semifinals series off on the night foot in the drive toward that title.
*Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is going to use the same 12 forwards from Game 6 of the second-round series against Columbus. With Kampfer in for McAvoy, the other two D pairs will be Zdeno Chara with Connor Clifton, and Torey Krug with Brandon Carlo.
*The Carolina Hurricanes did not reveal a starting goaltender, nor did they confirm or rule out the return of injured forward Micheal Ferland. Thanks, Hurricanes.
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