Normally when a player returns to the lineup after a long stretch without game action, there’s some sort of an adjustment as far as comfort goes. In Steven Kampfer‘s case, Saturday may be just the opposite.
Kampfer will play for the first time since Oct. 22 when he skates Saturday in place of Andrew Ference , who is dealing with a lower-body injury. The 23-year-old blueliner played two games last month, but was coming off his second knee injury in a matter of months at the time. Now, he’s a month and a half removed from the left knee sprain he suffered on Sept. 29 against the Senators, and as a result, feels more comfortable physically than he did in his October cameo.
“Definitely,” Kampfer said when asked whether he feels better now than when he last played. “I think a couple extra weeks definitely helps. I think it was good to kind of let it heal and get a little bit more comfortable and a little bit more confidence. I think now, being a couple months [after] it, it definitely feels a lot better, and I can tell that on the ice.”
The team’s seventh defenseman, Kampfer has had to use practice to get his speed and other attributes back. He’s also worked with power-skating instructor Besa Tsintsadze. It’s been a process for Kampfer, who injured his right knee at the end of the regular season while playing for Providence, to get back to where he wants to be, but he hopes he’s there now.
“Moving my feet, getting my speed back, the first couple of steps,” Kampfer said of what he’s been working on. “It takes a little bit of time to get back after sustaining a couple knee injuries. ‘¦ It’s those first two or three steps, your lateral mobility and stuff like that. It feels better now.”
Said coach Claude Julien : “He’s been working hard in practice, and I think this is an opportunity for him now to come into a game and play the way he can. ‘¦ You’ve got to understand that he hasn’t played in a while, so we can’t put our expectations too high but more, get a solid performance from him and a simple game. That’s all we’re going to need from Kampfer tonight. And then he’ll just work his way in, and feel better I’m sure as we move forward.”
Saturday will be Kampfer’s third game of the season and fourth career game against the Sabres. In three games against Buffalo last year, Kampfer picked up a goal and an assist.