No way they saw this coming though.
The Panthers defensemen have been doing a little more than just chipping in this season and their 46 collective points is most by a blueline in the league.
“We have great defensemen,'' Kris Versteeg said.
Campbell leads Florida's defensive corps with a goal and 14 assists. But holdovers Dmitry Kulikov and Jason Garrison have really amped up their game. Garrison scored his career-high sixth goal in just the 15th game of the season on Thursday; Kulikov has 12 assists – including at least one in the past five games and in eight of the past nine.
Kulikov is eight assists away from tying his career-high of 20 set last season.
“We were encouraged in the past to get up ice, but Campbell has come in and is leading the charge,'' Garrison said after Saturday's practice in Pembroke Pines. “I think another thing going is Kulikov and I are another year older. The learning process of it has been there, done there. We're looking to create offense now.''
Dineen credits the Panthers defensemen for not only shooting the puck more – Mike Weaver is aiming for career highs in assists as he already has six – but keeping the puck in the offensive zone. A great example of that was Kulikov keeping possession during a power play on Thursday, a save that led to a goal from Mike Santorelli.
Kulikov and Florida's rearguards have done an exceptional job of keeping the play alive this season.
“It may not be a scoring a chance, but it keeps the puck in their end,'' Dineen said. “It's always fun to play down there and it gives you more energy. They're doing a good job of keeping the puck alive and we're getting points.''