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Thursday, January 13, 2011
Updated: January 14, 10:32 AM ET
Steven Kampfer exceeds expectations

By Joe McDonald
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Only minutes after the Bruins' Steven Kampfer scored the game-winning goal to help Boston earn an entertaining 7-5 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night at TD Garden, the rookie defenseman gave his stick to a young boy in the crowd.

After Kampfer notched his fourth goal of the season with 1:14 remaining in regulation to give Boston a 6-5 advantage, he noticed the boy going crazy and climbing up the glass in the section next to the visitor's bench. So, when Kampfer was awarded the game's No. 1 star, he took his stick over to the glass and gave it to the young fan.

"I figured since he was jumping up on the glass, he definitely deserved a stick," the 22-year-old defenseman said. "When I went by the bench, I saw him banging on the glass, so I definitely tried to look for him when I came out for the first star."

Steven Kampfer
The Bruins' Steven Kampfer scored the game-winning goal of an entertaining bout with the Flyers on Thursday night.

While the boy and his family were clearly ecstatic with the gift, Kampfer was equally thrilled for the gift-wrapped two points he helped Boston earn. There is a reason the Bruins organization decided to give up a fourth-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft to acquire Kampfer from Anaheim last March, and that's because Boston scouted his abilities and knew he would be a perfect fit for the Bruins.

When Kampfer made his pro debut with the Providence Bruins last spring following a collegiate career at the University of Michigan, it didn't take long for Bruins management to realize what type of player it had acquired. In his first game with the P-Bruins, it was clear Kampfer's transition to the pro game would be a smooth one.

He proved that again during training camp in September, and when Bruins veteran defenseman Mark Stuart suffered a broken finger in early December, Kampfer was summoned from Providence.

Since his arrival he's been solid in every aspect of the game, especially his offensive skills.

"That's the reason we brought him up," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "When we had him at training camp, we thought he moved the puck extremely well. He's a good skater and he does a great job.

"I think he's been a great addition for our hockey club because we really lacked that early on in the year, and he's come in and provided us with some of that."

The Bruins organization has proven to have plenty of depth at the defensive position, and Kampfer is just another example of that.

"It's huge. It shows that we have a lot of depth in the organization," Kampfer said. "The front office is doing a great job trading for guys or picking guys up in the draft. It speaks volumes for the coaches down in Providence, too. They're developing players and they're getting them up here, and we're starting to produce and helping this team out when guys go down."

Speaking of guys going down, Stuart continues to rehab from a broken finger, and he said Thursday morning he's hoping to return to game action in the next week. The veteran also knows he won't be given a free pass once he's deemed healthy to play because of the way the younger blueliners, specifically Kampfer and Adam McQuaid, have been playing this season.

It's clear Kampfer is playing with confidence, and he's not white-knuckled when he has the puck on his stick. He's not afraid to carry the puck, and he won't hesitate when he decides to pinch in the offensive zone. He proved that point when he scored the game-winning goal Thursday night.

If his goal wasn't enough, Kampfer supplied a few teeth-shattering body checks during the game, especially on an impressive open-ice hit on the Flyers' Scott Hartnell that sparked the Bruins' bench and the fans.

"We are very pleased with the way he's playing," said Bruins captain and Kampfer's defensive partner Zdeno Chara. "Obviously once in a while he'll make a mistake, but overall he's playing way over everybody's expectations. It's nice to see."

Chara said Kampfer was born with a natural ability to compete successfully at this level, which is rare with young prospects who usually play a simple and safe game once they get to the NHL.

Fellow Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk is another example of how a prospect can come up from the AHL and make significant contributions when needed. He played so well last season for the Bruins, and he's become a permanent part of Boston's blue line. Now he sees similarities with Kampfer.

"It's awesome," Boychuk said. "He's stepping in, and we're not even missing a beat. You need stuff like that, and that's what good teams do, having guys step up like that. He's doing a good job."

There's been talk that the Bruins could be in the market for a puck-moving defenseman prior to the Feb. 28 NHL trade deadline, but Kampfer could be that guy, and even Chara likes the way the team is set right now.

"It's really positive, and it's good to see guys coming up, filling the spots and playing really important roles," Chara said. "It's nice, and we need that because you can only play so many games relying on two, three or four defensemen. When you see young guys can handle it, you can roll three pairs, spread the ice time and rely on each other."

After Boston's emotional victory Thursday night, a lot of people went home happy. Kampfer is one person who probably didn't get much sleep after that game, and the young fan who took a stick home probably didn't, either.

If Kampfer continues to play the way he has, he'll make it a tough decision for Bruins management when that time comes. It's a good problem to have.

"When you get called up to the NHL, it's a thrill and it's something you work for when you're a kid," Kampfer said. "You're trying to stay when you get up here. You're trying to earn a spot, and that's what I'm trying to do right now, and I'm trying to make the most of every opportunity I get."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.