Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

February 25, 2008

TIM SCHMITT: Sabres need to pull trigger on Campbell

BUFFALO — Let’s start by saying this — Brian Campbell is a heck of a hockey player.

If Monday night’s 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers was his last in a Sabres uniform like his agent believes, the adrenaline jolt he adds while carrying the puck through the neutral zone will be sorely missed at HSBC Arena.

Vision is what makes Campbell special, from the way he spots open teammates while quarterbacking the power play to his uncanny ability to spin into open pockets of ice. The first time Campbell pulled off his patented move, most gasped and expected he’d wind up at Millard Fillmore Gates if he tried it again. But the trick has never blown up in his face. In fact, he pulled it off one more time in blue and gold during Monday’s third period.

The crowd cheered, knowing full well it could be the last time they see it first hand.

And on the flip side, although he’s not the most physically imposing blueliner, Campbell has made a habit of picking his spots for crushing blows, catching guys with every bit of his 190 pounds while they motored up the ice, heads down in transition.

Ironically, while Campbell started the game at one end on Monday, the man with whom he’ll forever be linked in Sabres lore — R.J. Umberger — was on the ice for Philly.

Campbell’s hit in the first round of the 2006 playoffs, a perfectly legal shot that knocked Umberger out cold, seemed to solidify a franchise and a community.

As of press time on Monday, Campbell was still Sabres property. But with warm, fuzzy feelings aside, the Sabres need to deal the defenseman today before the 3 p.m. trade deadline.

Here’s why:

• While Campbell’s offensive talents are obvious, he’s still ordinary in his own zone and has been closer to dreadful the past few months. There’s a reason he came into Monday night’s game a minus-4. For example, with the Sabres holding a narrow 3-2 lead against the Flyers, he casually looked up ice deep in his own zone only too have Jeff Carter pick his pocket for a close chance.

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