CAMPBELL HELPING SABRES FORGET
SECOND IN ASSISTS
B U F FA L O, N.Y. • Defenceman Brian Campbell ambled into the home team’s dressing room at HSBC Arena yesterday as the leading points producer on a roster filled with talented young forwards and the poster boy for the resilience of the Buffalo Sabres.
He registered a point in each of his first four games, including the four assists he earned in a win over Washington on Saturday. Campbell had nine points overall, and his eight assists were tied for second most in the league behind Ottawa centre Jason Spezza (11).
“Do I expect big things from myself? Yeah, but that’s a pretty good start,” Campbell, 28, said. “It’s pretty crazy. I don’t know what to say to it. Obviously, I don’t expect to keep that pace up or anything like that, but I feel good about myself.”
Campbell was named the second of the NHL’s three stars of the week yesterday.
His success has aided the Sabres to a 2-2 start in which the club has scored seven of its 24 goals on the power play. While Buffalo, which has been to the Eastern Conference final the last two seasons, is already eight points behind the blazing Ottawa Senators in the Northeast Division, things looked much more dire for the Sabres when free agency chopped the heart out of the young club in the off-season.
Buffalo is still dealing with the sting of losing two of its top three points producers — Daniel Brière and Chris Drury — and can ill-afford to strike out again this summer when three more key veterans — Campbell, forward Jochen Hecht and defenceman Dmitri Kalinin — emerge from the end of their current deals.
There have been signs the front office has relaxed its policy of negotiating during the season. Campbell said his representatives have met with Buffalo management, but he is still waiting on a new deal, which will probably be worth more than the US$1.75-million he will be paid this season.
“I like it here, I have no complaints and I’d like to stay here,” Campbell said. “Whatever happens after that happens after that. It’s a wait-andsee kind of game, but I think I’ve let it be known that I don’t really need to go anywhere.”
That is not to say his time in Buffalo has always been as smooth. Campbell and former roommate Rhett Warrener were quarantined four years ago after a visit from Campbell’s sister-in-law, a healthcare worker at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto who was diagnosed with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Campbell and Warrener became the focus of attention on a flight to Carolina with the rest of the team, including coach Lindy Ruff.
“They started closing the doors to take off and everyone’s yelling, ‘Don’t take off, don’t take off!’ Then we’ve got the World Health Organization on the phone.
“Brian … was on the phone and he said, ‘Oh, they want to talk to you, Lindy,’ and tries to hand him the phone. Lindy’s going, ‘I don’t want that phone! Get me a different phone!’ ”
Campbell’s sister-in-law recovered after a few weeks of rest.