Jason Brough

MONTREAL, QC - APRIL 05:  Brian Campbell #51 of the Florida Panthers skates the puck in his one thousandth NHL career match against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on April 5, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Florida Panthers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Campbell seems a perfect fit in return to Blackhawks

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CHICAGO (AP) Brian Campbell‘s 3-year-old daughter had soccer on Saturday morning, so his family skipped the Blackhawks’ scrimmage at the United Center. The grinning defenseman said he wasn’t sure if her team was playing games yet, but she had to be there.

No big deal. Campbell will get plenty of opportunities for family time this year.

The 37-year-old Campbell is back in Chicago after spending the last five seasons in Florida, leaving some money on the table for a one-year deal and a second stint with the Blackhawks. His wife, Lauren, is from the region, and the couple and their two young daughters make their offseason home in the area.

“It’s just great to wake up every morning and I know the area and my wife’s extremely happy and the kids with school and everything just being ready to go,” he said.

The move was a no-brainer for Chicago, which lost Johnny Oduya during free agency last July and missed his veteran presence at times last season. With Campbell in the fold, the Blackhawks appear to be in great shape with their blue liners, with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading a deep group of defensemen.

Campbell, who helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup in 2010, had six goals and 25 assists in 82 games with the Panthers last season. He led NHL defensemen with a plus-31 plus-minus rating.

“Just such a real smart player,” said Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen, who also coached Campbell for three seasons in Florida. “I think his patience is a real key for us. He makes really quality plays. He’s been around for a while and he loves the game. He can skate all night.”

The Blackhawks love mobile defensemen who can help on the offensive side, and Campbell seems like a perfect fit for what they try to do. He assisted on Richard Panik‘s first goal of Saturday’s scrimmage, the centerpiece of the team’s annual training camp festival, and carried the puck all the way up the ice during another impressive sequence.

Chicago is missing several players at the moment due to the World Cup of Hockey, but Campbell has made a smooth return to the Blackhawks so far.

“There’s a few things system-wise that’s going to be different, I’m sure. It’s kind of tough to get into that right now,” said Campbell, who played in every regular-season game while he was with the Panthers. “But not much has changed. There’s a lot of the same staff, which is great, and the organization just keeps getting better every day.”

Campbell, a native of Strathroy, Ontario, played with a couple of current Blackhawks during his first stint with the team, and he already has made an impression on his new teammates.

“Skating with him and seeing him out in these scrimmages, his poise with the puck and his play recognition and how he moves the puck up the ice and gets it away from us,” goaltender Scott Darling said, “we’re really happy to have him.”

Campbell, a four-time All-Star, broke into the NHL with Buffalo in 1999. He won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2012 after collecting four goals and 49 assists in 82 games with Florida, becoming the first defenseman since Red Kelly in 1954 to win the award.

Coming off perhaps his best season – Campbell’s plus-minus rating was a career best – he doesn’t appear to be worried about duplicating his form from a year ago.

“For me this year, it’s just work hard and produce and help out,” he said. “I expect a lot out of myself. I just want to be a good puck mover for this team, play well defensively. Those are the things I kind of did last year. Points will come, I’m not worried about that aspect of the game. Just trying to win hockey games and help these young kids.”

Related: The Blackhawks are ‘very high’ on Michal Kempny

‘Too big of a risk’ — Smid to sit out season with neck issue

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 20: Ladislav Smid #3 of the Calgary Flames skate with control of the puck against the San Jose Sharks during the second period at SAP Center on January 20, 2014 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Ladislav Smid will not play this season for the Calgary Flames. The 30-year-old defenseman is still dealing with a neck issue, and he doesn’t want to jeopardize his life after hockey.

“At this point it would be too big of a risk, I feel like, to try to play through my neck issues,” Smid said, per NHL.com. “I think the year will help me. Hopefully my neck will settle down a little more. I’m only 30 years old, so I would like to be out there helping the team, but it is what it is. You have only one health. It’s not like I’m retiring. But for this year, I’m going to have to sit out.”

Smid is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He only played 22 games for the Flames last season, and just 31 the season prior.

The Flames are reportedly bringing veteran defenseman Nicklas Grossman to camp on a tryout. If necessary, they could also consider bringing Kris Russell back, or explore signing another free agent like Dennis Seidenberg.

Lucic aims to give the Oilers ‘an identity’

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 09:  Milan Lucic #17 of the Los Angeles Kings looks on during the second period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on February 9, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Some will roll their eyes, and maybe even note that John Tortorella was saying the same sort of stuff.

But Milan Lucic is earnest in his desire to change the culture of Edmonton Oilers.

“This is a team that hasn’t really had an identity over the last couple of years and I think that’s the first thing we need to establish,” Lucic said yesterday, per the Edmonton Journal. “You have the right coach, you have the right GM and you have the right superstar to lead the way. It’s just about everyone having the right attitude and mindset in order for that all to come together.”

Lucic signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Oilers on July 1. The 28-year-old was brought in by his old general manager in Boston, Peter Chiarelli, with whom he celebrated a Stanley Cup championship in 2011.

For all that money, Lucic will be expected to score, provide leadership, and play the kind of heavy, physical hockey that Chiarelli believes is necessary for the Oilers to be successful. The GM also brought in big wingers Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian last season.

“We’re in a heavy division, we’re in a really heavy division,” Chiarelli said after landing Lucic in free agency. “You looked at guys like Connor [McDavid] and Leon [Draisaitl] at the end of the year when you go up to California, those are tough matchups. You’ve got to be able to wear down the opposition, too, and that’s what the big guys do. You’ve got to be able to play, at the end of the day you have to be able to play and all those guys you mentioned can play.”

“It kind of gives us that swagger, that meanness that we have been looking for,” McDavid added. “We tried to do that a little bit last year in adding a couple of bigger bodies and it definitely helped, but now you have the addition of Lucic and those guys we added before. We definitely have that mean streak that other teams won’t want to be pushing us around.”

While nobody really believes the Oilers are ready to compete for the Stanley Cup, there is significant pressure on them to improve. The last time they made the playoffs was 2006, and they’re moving in to a new downtown arena this season.

Said Chiarelli in May: “We owe it to the fans to get better in a relatively short period of time and we’re going to look at all options to allow us to do that.”

The following month, he traded Taylor Hall for defenseman Adam Larsson — a deal that was largely panned by NHL observers, but one that Chiarelli felt he needed to make.

Evander Kane’s excuses don’t sit well with Buffalo columnist

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 01: Evander Kane #9 of the Buffalo Sabres warms up to play the Edmonton Oilers at First Niagara Center on March 1, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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Yesterday in Buffalo, Evander Kane took a small share of the responsibility for his latest legal woes, but he deflected more than he accepted.

From the Associated Press:

Saying his recent off-ice legal problems “come with the territory” of being a professional athlete, Sabres forward Evander Kane acknowledged Thursday that he needs to be more careful when putting himself in potentially troublesome situations.

“These things unfortunately happen more often than not, and they’re becoming more and more prevalent each and every day if you look around other sports,” Kane said. “For me, it’s trying to stay out of that kind of stuff and kind of picking my spots better.”

Suffice to say, those remarks did not sit well with at least one member of the local media. Wrote John Vogl of The Buffalo News:

If Kane was being honest with his answers and comments, he’s bordering on delusional.

Instead of attempting to paint himself as a victim, Kane would have been wise to at least appear sorry. Maybe he believes he’s done nothing wrong legally. The courts will decide that. But he certainly brought bad publicity to the organization that gave up a fortune to get him and pays him a fortune to play, and being sorry for that would have been appropriate.

Being put in handcuffs on the streets of Buffalo in broad daylight, as Kane was in July, should be a blow to a person’s ego. Not Kane. He got a long-awaited fresh start by leaving Winnipeg, and he doesn’t even care that he blew it.

For a lot of people, Kane’s credibility has simply run out. He is currently dealing with two separate legal issues. The first relates to an incident at a downtown Buffalo bar, where he’s alleged to have grabbed three women by the hair and neck. (He pleaded not guilty.) He is also being sued by a woman who is accusing him of injuring her in a hotel room. (In a counterclaim, he called the woman’s allegation’s “a sham.”)

Vogl did not even mention that the 25-year-old winger was suspended a game by the Sabres last season after partying at the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto and missing practice in the morning. (He said after that incident: “It’s something that I can promise you won’t happen again and it’s something that I’m definitely going to learn from.”)

In 2013, Kane admitted to throwing three punches at a man in Vancouver, but claimed self-defense.

Less than two years later, he was traded to Buffalo after a run-in with his teammates in Winnipeg. He later accused the Jets of not giving him enough support.

Related: The curious case of Evander Kane vs. Winnipeg restauranteurs

After finally winning a playoff series, expectations are ‘even higher’ for Islanders

New York Islanders' Johnny Boychuk, right, celebrates his first goal with John Tavares during the first period of the NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, Sunday, March 6, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) Coming off their deepest playoff run in 23 years, the New York Islanders open training camp hoping to build on that success and go even further.

The Islanders overcame injuries down the stretch last season to earn a playoff berth for the second straight year, and third in the past four, while reaching the 100-point mark in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1982. New York then beat Florida to win a postseason series for the first time since 1993 before losing to Tampa Bay in five games in the second round.

“It was frustrating but you learn from it and you move on,” defenseman Travis Hamonic said at the team’s media day Thursday. “It was good for our team, for our fan base to see that and have an opportunity to win the first one in a long time. It sets our bar and our expectations even higher.”

The Islanders open camp Friday as a different group from the one that dispersed in May after their loss to the Lightning. Free agent signees Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and P.A. Parenteau are here, replacing departed longtime stars Kyle Okposo (Buffalo), Frans Nielsen (Detroit) and Matt Martin (Toronto).

Ladd, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, totaled 25 goals and 21 assists last season in 78 games for Winnipeg and Chicago. The 31-year-old left wing has 210 goals and 256 assists in 12 seasons. Chimera, 37, had 20 goals and 20 assists for Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington and has 163 goals and 206 assists over 15 seasons. Parenteau, back for his second stint with the Islanders, had a career high-tying 20 goals and 21 assists for Toronto last season. For his career, the 33-year-old Parenteau has 101 goals and 167 assists in 424 games spanning eight seasons in the NHL.

“I think everybody’s excited to get on the ice together and start practicing and start the season,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “We’ve made the playoffs two years in a row and obviously want to get the third year and do better.”

The Islanders will be missing some key faces at the start of camp with coach Jack Capuano, captain John Tavares (Canada), goalies Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss (Europe), and veteran forward Nikolay Kulemin (Russia) playing in the World Cup in Toronto. Capuano will likely be back soon with Team USA having played its final game Thursday night after failing to advance to the semifinals.

“We’ve known for a while that they’d be gone,” Hamonic said. “I’m sure it’s going to have a different feel to it but this time of year everyone’s pretty excited to get out there. There’s a lot of coaches, a lot of people and things are going a hundred miles an hour. Just kind of roll with the punches.”

The Islanders just finished a weeklong rookie camp for their top prospects, and some of the veterans and newcomers also held informal workouts on their own.

“At this point just skating on your own and informally is starting to get old,” Ladd said. “So, it’s exciting to get going, get the group together and start working toward that goal of winning the Stanley Cup.”

 

REPLACING MARTIN: With Martin’s departure, there’s a void on the Islanders’ vaunted fourth-line, and Cal Clutterbuck knows his former teammate will be hard to replace.

“It’s tough to have Matty gone,” Clutterbuck said. “I don’t think there’s a physical presence like that, as big a presence in the league as Matty is. That’s a loss but I think there’s some guys Casey (Cizikas) and I will be able to play with that’ll be able to do some of the same things.”

YOUTH ON DEFENSE: After bringing in veterans like Lubomir Visnovsky and Marek Zidlicky to round out the defensive pairings the last few years, the Islanders will likely be going with a younger player this year. Hamonic, Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan are the established stalwarts on the blue line. The leading candidates for the sixth spot include Scott Mayfield, Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech – all of whom have made contributions when given a chance.