« THOMAS ACTIVATED: Tim Thomas is Back, Jacob Markstrom and Alex Petrovic Returned | Main | STILL HIGH ON PETRO: Panthers Have High Hopes for Young Defenseman »

BRIAN CAMPBELL: Leading Florida Panthers by Example

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Unlike many of his teammates, Brian Campbell didn't spend Christmas Eve running around various airports just to spend a few days up north.

Instead, the Panthers defenseman decided to spend some quiet time with his wife Lauren and enjoy daughter Harper's first Christmas -- it will be a green one -- in South Florida.

If anyone deserves a few days of relaxation, Campbell is the guy.

"You have to find times to back off,'' coach Peter Horachek said.

Since coming to the Panthers in the summer of 2011, few players have logged more minutes than Campbell.

Campbell led all skaters in ice time during his first season with the Panthers in 2011-12, then was third in averaging over 26 minutes in 48 games last year.

This season, Campbell is back to his ice-hogging ways with his 27-plus minutes per game ranking third in the NHL.

In Monday's blowout loss to the Lightning, Campbell was on the ice for 27:32.

Of Florida's 38 games this year, Campbell has exceeded the 26 minute mark in 23 -- with 18 of those games coming since Horachek took over on Nov. 9.

"You do what you have to do I think,'' said Campbell, who has played in all 168 regular season games since coming to the Panthers. "You don't control [the minutes] so you try to get a lot of rest, a lot of pills -- the legal ones. I try to take care of myself and you learn over the years.''

With Ed Jovanovski out an extended period of time after having major surgery to help correct his degenerative hip condition last year, Campbell has become much more of a searched out leader inside the locker room.

Campbell, Jovanovski said, leads by his example as well as through his words.

"He's definitely a guy who has been around and is well respected not only on our team but around the league,'' Jovanovski said. "When he has something to say, guys listen. He leads by example on the ice. He cares so much about the team, it shows. It's infectious.''

General manager Dale Tallon sought to bring Campbell to the Panthers in 2011 knowing Chicago was willing to deal him at the draft. Tallon originally signed Campbell to the eight-year, $57-plus million contract when Tallon was running the Blackhawks with Campbell helping Chicago win the Stanley Cup in 2010.

At the time when Tallon swung the deal for Campbell in 2011 in exchange for Rostislav Olesz's contract, the Panthers didn't have very many players signed for the following season. Campbell served as a so-called 'pied piper' as available free agents began flocking to the Panthers that summer.

"He's become a leader and obviously plays 28 minutes a game,'' Tallon said. "It's tough to find guys like Brian Campbell, guys who do the things he does. He gave us some credibility with free agents back then, helped us bring in some other guys. What he's really brought is stability on the back end. He's a top-notch pro.''

Of the 11 players who came to the Panthers during that stretch in 2011 when Tallon remade the Florida roster, Campbell's acquisition remains the high point. Although there have been successes as well as failures, Campbell -- who is signed through the next two seasons -- has come as advertised.

"He’s been really good for us and me,'' Horachek said. "He’s out there playing all the time, half the game. He’s certainly pushing the envelope. He wants the guys to win, he wants to do the right things. When I give a message he reaffirms the message. He’s been really good.''