The balance of power in the Western Conference may have shifted at the United Center two days before the Blackhawks and Predators play their first playoff game.
Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell, out since breaking a clavicle on March 14, was a full participant at practice on Wednesday. Campbell, who was injured by a hit that cost Washington superstar Alexander Ovechkin the rest of that game and a two-game suspension, had seven goals and 31 assists in 68 games. The Blackhawks played without both Campbell and Kim Johnsson for the last five weeks of the regular season.
A timetable for Campbell’s return has not been announced. The Blackhawks do not play their first playoff game until Friday night. Sunday would be five weeks since the injury occurred.
UPDATE: After Wednesday’s practice, the Blackhawks confirmed that Campbell will travel with the team to Nashville, and Quenneville said he hopes to have Campbell back at some point during the first round series.
If Campbell can return for the first round of the playoffs, the roster dynamics for the Blackhawks could swing incredibly. Campbell is one of the faster skaters in the league, and his puck-moving ability is exceptional. He was having a resurgent season before the injury.
In the wake of the injuries hitting the Blackhawks’ blue line, Dustin Byfuglien moved back to defense and has played very well. Bringing Campbell back into the mix would give coach Joel Quenneville more options on his talented roster. Certainly Quenneville would be able to spread the minutes out on his blue line between Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Campbell and Byfuglien as his primary defensemen. That group would certainly be near, if not at the top of the list of quality, deep groups of defensemen among the 16 teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.