WILMINGTON, Mass. — Two seasons ago, Gregory Campbell contributed a career-high 13 goals for the Florida Panthers. That same season, Bruins winger Shawn Thornton also set a personal best with six scores for the Black and Gold.
Both players’ mission this season is to return to 2008-09 offensive form while playing the energy-generating, hit-distributing game they’re both expected to provide Boston.
To start this season, Campbell and Thornton have been linemates along with rookie Brad Marchand.
“Two years ago I had 13 and last year I had two, so I’m hoping [Thornton] can get me back to pace,” said Campbell after a recent practice. “But I think we’ve had a good start to our line, created some chemistry. It’s early, things change. It’s nice to create that. Even before the season started, we were playing a little bit together. I think it’s confidence. It’s not just going out there and trying not to get scored on. You’ve got to go out there with the mindset that you want to score and create those plays.
“We are what we are. You have your Ferraris on the team and you have your Dodge Ram pick-up trucks. We have to play our style of game. But that’s effective in its own way and we have to do what we do to create those chances.”
The points haven’t come yet, but the chances were pretty numerous – relative to ice time – in the Bruins’ win over Phoenix last Sunday. They figure to keep coming in a hard-fought battle with New Jersey Saturday night.
Every year, Thornton seems to be part of a grind line that makes opponents play in their own end. As he points out, he attempted just 17 fewer shots last season than in 2008-09, so there’s an element of being snake-bit that limited him to just one goal.
But Campbell might be a major improvement over Thornton’s recent centermen Steve Begin and Stephane Yelle, both of whom were older than Campbell and didn’t quite have the same versatility and offensive instincts.
“I know ‘Soupy,’ he’s probably got better hands than he gets credit for,” says Thornton. “He sees the ice really well and he’s a smart hockey player. I don’t want to predict anything’s going to happen, but obviously the more we can chip in the better.”
Talk about the Bruins improving their scoring always centers – rightfully so – on the likes of Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin and others with more goals in their past. Should Thornton’s words about chipping in more come true, however, that’ll take the heat off the bigger names during slumps and allow head coach Claude Julien to continue to subscribe to the strategy of rolling four lines on a nightly basis.